As Evanstonians debate how much to tax themselves to fund its public libraries, a report in the New York Times today suggests outsourcing library services is catching on elsewhere as a way to cut costs.

As Evanstonians debate how much to tax themselves to fund its public libraries, a report in the New York Times today suggests outsourcing library services is catching on elsewhere as a way to cut costs.

The story reports on the decision by officials in Santa Clarita, Calif., to outsource its public library’s operations to Library Systems & Services, a Maryland-based firm that now runs libaries in other California cities as well as in Kansas, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas.

Santa Clarita is a town of 161,000 people that now spends $4 million a year on its three library branches. Frank Pezzanite, the chief executive of the outsourcing firm, has pledged to shave that budget by $1 million a year, mainly by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees.

Coincidentally Evanston, a town half the size of Santa Clarita, is now spending just over $4 million a year to provide public library services.

The Santa Clarita decision has run into opposition from some library supporters, as well as library workers who may lose their jobs or be rehired with only a 401(k) retirement fund rather than a government pension.

The American Library Association nearly a decade ago adopted a policy position opposing privatizing libraries, and the trade publication Library Journal several years ago published a lengthy article that gave LSSI’s operations mixed reviews.

Stockton, Calif., is also reportedly considering privatizing its library system.

Related story

Anger as a private company takes over libraries (NY Times)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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3 Comments

  1. L.S. S. I. and EPL

    Mary Johns is  the current Director of the Evanston Public Library, Her immediately previous employer is L. S. S. I.  She undoubtedly has experience in and an affinity for the privatizing of "in trouble" public libraries. Perhaps she could advise Wally on the future of the venerable public institution called the Library.

  2. Now that’s what I’m talking about

    What Santa Clarita is doing makes perfect sense, and I bet that city is doing it out of desperation, considering the dire financial situation California is in.

    The very least the Council could do is create a subcommittee to look into privatizing the Evanston library system. Heck, if you do it right, you would have enough money to open branches on the south and west side.

    Switching the government pension to a 401 (k) retirement plan would save Evanston a bundle of money. In fact, Evanston should do that with ALL of it’s city union employees.

    That’s not going to happen when the entire City Council, the Mayor and their political party, the Democrats, receive campaign donations and support from government unions.

  3. Outsource and privatize all of Evanston

     That’s why Mary Johns (MJ) was hired. If you read the article, you would see that LSSI specializes in "cleaning house" (and she’s already started doing that). But why stop at outsourcing and privatizing the library? Why not the entire City of Evanston as well? Per the article, "janitors, police forces and even entire city halls" have been "farmed out in one town or another." The City Council has never had the courage or foresight to lower full time salaries or eliminate pensions and perks. So let’s go for it! Get rid of all of them!

     

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