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Report sees trend to library outsourcing

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.

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

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