Thursday, March 20, 2008

Privatize your library?

This is not the way to support libraries. Two towns here in Massachusetts are proposing privatizing their libraries, saying that they are struggling with continuing services while keeping taxes low.

First of all, this completely goes against the very idea of what public libraries are. Private companies are not accountable to the public the way that a city or country run library is. Or is it? LSSI, the company that already runs libraries in California, Texas, Oregon and Tennessee, say that they would not rely on fees and would instead get their funding through grants and taxes. Kind of like now. So if the libraries would remain free and still operate on the same funding, what exactly would the role of this company be?

Secondly, and this may partly answer that question, I'm concerned about one of the statements in the article: "LSSI generally does not hire unionized employees, helping it to save on benefits packages." Given the way my union has behaved I'm all for not being in a union, but what this says to me is that they don't want to give librarians decent benefits. Because everyone knows that librarians are compensated way too much, right?

Predictably, the MA Board of Library Commissioners opposes the idea. And although the idea was originally proposed by a resident, I have to think that many people won't want their tax dollars going to a private company. I sure wouldn't.

Here is an article about the privatizing of the Jackson County, OR libraries last year. 15 branches had closed due to a budgetary crisis, and re-opened with LSSI running the libraries with a smaller staff receiving fewer benefits.

Maybe I'm just a socialist at heart, but I think corporations have enough power already. It's bad enough that you can't see a movie or a concert or even a roller derby without being advertised to, so let's just keep the private companies out of our libraries, shall we?


lipknit said...

Right on! Yikes, would that mean no interlibrary loans? I live for those!

Anonymous said...

You are SO misguided about what LSSI does--they are a company of librarians and they pay full benefits, offer career advancement and do a lot of good. Libraries remain "public" and often improve under LSSI's direction and management (and no, I am not affiliated with LSSI in any way so this isn't a paid endorsement, but I am a librarian!)

3goodrats said...

I don't believe I'm misguided, I think I just have a different opinion than you about the role of private companies in public institutions :)

The articles I have been reading indicate that LSSI cuts staff and "saves on benefits" and I still find that very concerning.

For the sake of the libraries involved, I hope you are right that LSSI improves things, but I still oppose their involvement in principle.

3goodrats said...

One more point I'd like to make about this is that the private company is profiting from this. I don't care if that company is entirely made up of librarians - a private company should not be profiting from a public library. Period.

LibraryChristi said...

I totally, wholeheartedly agree with you. A private company shouldn't be profiting from what should be a public institution. That just goes against everything libraries stand for.

And that benefits, does that make me worry. 'Cuz it's not like our benefits are all that to begin with!