Monday, August 23, 2010

Making a case for library privatization

The folks at LSSI — the company seeking to take over management of the San Joaquin County-City of Stockton library system, of which the Tracy and Mountain House bibliotecas are a part — has a website it created obstensibly to inform locals about what a partnership with the private company would mean. Check it out here.

LSSI says that it can provide increased library services while spending less money, even establishing a reserve fund that could be used for later improvements. When asked how they could do this, officials with the company said that they have a tested and proven business model and turned around the question, asking why the county and city management haven't been able to provide more efficient services.

One answer might be that LSSI wouldn't have to deal with the California pension plan. If LSSI wins management of the library system, current government employees would be terminated and would then have to re-apply for jobs with LSSI. (For its part, LSSI says those employees would have preference in the hiring process.)

But since it's a private company, LSSI wouldn't be responsible for bolstering their employees' pension plans via CalPers — though an LSSI spokesman said that the company offers a 401k and a package of benefits that's "competitive" in the private sector.

Regardless of how LSSI plans to get there, any contract with the local governments would obligate LSSI to meet certain service levels and to meet them with a limited amount of money. In other words, if the company can't give the county/city the proper bang for the buck, that's LSSI's problem.


Anonymous said...

Amazingly enough, they MAY increase hours by 47%, however the staffing plan cuts staff across the board, relying on volunteers to fill the gaps. They will also POSSIBLY increase the materials budget by 250%, but they do not allow for any electronic resources, which are NOT cheap and heavily in demand with library 2.0. The "benefits" package that they jokingly offer is $1000/month for a family for medical/dental/vision, and employees cannot participate in the 401k plan for a year. And they plan to cut everyones pay. Did I mention that the $900,000 profit that they will make goes to Maryland? Oh, and they don't have to share how they spend tax payer dollars. The county has failed to do their due diligence by having an outside library professional (as none of the administrators that have reviewed the proposal know anything about how a library operates)and privatizing without further investigation will harm the County more than LSSI could ever help them.

Anonymous said...

And let's not forget that many of the programs and services that LSSI says they will bring to our library system, e.g., The Big Read, Dia De Los Ninos, centralized print stations, public internet reservation system, payment by credit/debit card, etc. are things the current library system has already done or is in the process of implementing. Their boilerplate proposal shows a disturbing lack of knowledge about the county. When push comes to shove LSSI will make decisions, simply by virtue of their private status, because it helps their bottom line, not because it will help the citizens of San Joaquin County.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is time for the media to actually start INVESTIGATING this instead of just blogging about it. There are some obviously disturbing things here, and the County Administrator appears to be moving ahead with recommending the County privatize without actually investigating the proposal closely. Inviting the Friends of the Library groups to meet then shining them on was poorly done Mr. Lopez. Yes, we saw that you had already made up your mind prior to the meeting.

Anonymous said...

It is clear that commercialiing the library is not a good idea. In fact it goes against the very concept of the American Public Library system.

Mic said...

Please check out the other side of this story at: