Sunday, September 30, 2007

Re: Private libraries: a novel idea ("Let's fix our own problems")

John over at the Washington Policy Center posts up about the Jackson (OR) county library system joining forces with a for-profit firm to get the libraries back open.

Good for Jackson to get their libraries going again, but I'm afraid I can't swallow what John is pushing (an embrace private libraries). It seems that there are some nuances he's overlooking.

LSSI (the private firm) will operate the libraries on about half of what the county had been spending. But, the county hasn't found a permanent source for those funds and most of those savings seem to be coming from lopping off hours of operation and cutting retirement.

I can't also but look at other places LSSI has either come into or been rejected from. In New Jersey, one person carries the heart of the matter for me:
"Let us fix our own problems," said Leticia Acosta, president of the newly formed Friends of the Library group. "Don't send our tax dollars to Maryland."
Jackson county brining in a company to run their libraries is essentially a "we can't do this." The original closure of the libraries came when federal funds dried up and the community couldn't come together to locally fund the system. Now that LSSI is in the picture, if local communities want full service libraries, they're going to have to pass higher taxes anyway.

And, how libraries are run is also outsourced under LSSI. In a Texas example, the details of LSSI's response to a public request for proposal is secret.

I agree with the Daily Tidings here, that its great to get the libraries back open. But, it would be even better if it was the communities themselves who did it. Rescuing libraries may be profitable, but running libraries in the long term isn't something you should be able to make a profit on:

Public libraries, by their very nature, are classic 'market failures' — as are highways, schools, police, firefighters, and national defense and security. They are not profitable activities that a free market place will support. Privatization is not a mere management tool; it is a grave public policy shift. Privatization advocates must be challenged. If the core democratic values of libraries are glossed over in the name of efficiency, economy, and creative management, how will the public interest be served?

When LSSI Comes to Town
Fargo Public Library Drops LSSI Contract

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