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Matthew Cunningham
Don’t Privatize That Book! « Back to Story

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Our community was kept in the dark about LSSI. Days before the vote they had a Q and A with the public. Most that turned out were against it. But the LSSI reps that came to our county were also known Tea Party activists from Orlando (Orange County). They had some local Tea Party activists there praising the three Republican county Commissioners decision to consider privatizing the libraries. The swing vote that allowed the privatizing to happen was Commissioner Fred Hawkins. He pretended to be on the fence about it but he had $1000 in campaign contributions from the two Tea Party LSSI reps. He stated after he heard from the public he made his decision. Like I stated the majority of the people that turned out were against it. Our libraries have been privatized for over a year now and we need some ammunition to take them back. Our library system was in decent condition the people had just voted to support them with more tax dollars. But they chose to privatize instead of just raising the millage back up after they intentionally cut it too low. Another little neat tidbit of Osceola politics is there are far more Democrat then Republican registered voters but Republicans hold the majority of government office. Most feel this is because of our local Kissimmee Chamber of Commerce they are very political involved in Osceola and get tax funding from the dues paid by all the government agencies memberships with the political ingrained private association.
Without citing any particular business, I do speak with librarians in California on a nearly daily basis- I have seen the efficiency with which organizations such as LSSI can operate,and I agree that the only real objection to allowing them in to a city library is a selfish one, that preserves nothing but the status quo. When in recent memory has heavily regulated government oversight ever cut waste and maximized potential?

The answer is obvious- it hasn't. Think of an apple tree- Left to its own devices and allowed to grow anyway it chooses, the tree stops being able to give useful fruit; pruned correctly with an eye to future, the tree will fruit indefinitely and we can reap the benefits for years to come. AB 438 is designed to do nothing more than feed life support to a way of doing the public's work that clearly needed to be given last rights a good while ago, and the sooner city governments realize they are being manipulated, the better!
here's the problem with LSSi
Try doing some research first.
So clear .... Public Sector Union are a CANCER on society.

It's these Unions that need to be banned .... NOT Privatization efforts.
The only write ups or supporters of LSSI that anyone can point to are their own employees. Pathetic.
The only success story that supporters of LSSI turn to is riverside. They never point out LSSI has in fact attempted to take legal action against municipalities that speak out against their poor service. Not to mention the lobbyists on LSSI's payroll in Sacramento. Unfortunately for those of us in Santa Clarita, the LA County library system absolutely blows away the level of service in Riverside.
LSSI does not provide improved services and programs. Their contract with santa clarita already shows massive cuts in available e-services, qualified librarians and programs such as those for children. Turning over our private information and check out habits to a private company that provides piddling pay to under-qualified staff is not something any conservative should support.
Janet, in Riverside County, the inter-library book loan service is still in place -- and expanded since LSSI took it over.

Through the Request for Proposal (RFP), the government agency sets the parameters for what functions are to be supplied, and how good the service has to be. If LSSI has dropped inter-library service in Camarillo (for more than a transitional period), then that service is not included in the city contract. Talk to the city, and see if that is a contractor function.

But you do raise a good point -- government can screw up anything, including contracting out.
Improved service? Not. The first thing that happened in Camarillo was that the inter-library loan service that I regularly relied upon was stopped.
Katie, thanks for posting the NY TIMES "fresh perspective." Gosh, is it possible that the NY TIMES might be a biased, pro-union paper on such matters?

Here's my response to the article, posted on various blogs:

SEPTEMBER 27, 2010 5:52PM
The breathtaking dishonesty of the NY TIMES

The blatantly liberal bias of the NEW YORK TIMES is universally recognized -- except, of course, by liberals. It's a great mystery to the TIMES why it is losing readership at such a rapid rate -- the editors fail to connect the dots.

Over the years, I've learned how useless and indeed dishonest the TIMES is when reporting on political issues. But periodically I need a reminder. So do you. Here's a terrific example.

Anger as a Private Company Takes Over Libraries
26 September, 2010

The TIMES did this "news" story on LSSI, the company that privately runs libraries. Recently the firm was hired by Santa Clarita to manage and staff three libraries.

From the tone of the article, you'd think LSSI was going to turn the libraries into profit making concentration camps. The "story" is simply a hit piece attacking LSSI -- and privatization in general.

The story endlessly quotes 60's era lefties who irrationally feared profit-making LSSI taking over "their" libraries. But apparently the reporter could find no critics of EXISTING LSSI-managed libraries.

Only once does he go to an existing LSSI library and asks how it is working out -- in the last two paragraphs of the article. In that case (Redding), there was nothing but praise for LSSI (and you can imagine the paper looked hard for critics).

It's one thing to slant a story. But the TIMES goes out of its way to OMIT a major portion of the story -- LSSI's successful history of running government libraries. The TIMES intentional omits of the primary success example of LSSI.

In 1997 LSSI took over the 32 branch library system of Riverside County. The libraries are still owned by the county, but the operation is now handled by LSSI. LSSI hired any current government library employee who wished to continue working there.

The county supervisors -- some of whom were quite skeptical at the time -- are delighted with the results. Lower costs, longer library hours, bigger book budget and -- perhaps most important -- the end of customer complaints. The single government employee who oversees the LSSI Riverside operation also has nothing but praise for the private service.

Is the Riverside County experience mentioned in this incredibly biased story? Anywhere? No.

This hit piece demonstrates only that liberals can't handle the truth -- either as reporters, as editors, or as readers.

BTW, I twice tried to post this critique of the story in their voluminous comments section, and apparently was unsuccessful. All one finds in the comments are an near infinite number of incredibly misinformed myopic progressives who can NEVER be swayed by facts or reason. Indeed, it is educational to read of the mythological terrors conjured up by these presumably intelligent yet woefully ignorant Luddites.
Barbara, you pose ENDLESS questions with the sole purpose of somehow denigrating the privatization option. But of course, you don't ask such questions of GOVERNMENT operations.

Hence your questions are largely irrelevant. What the taxpayers and voters want to know is how much does it cost, and how good is the service. Seems that on that basis, it's working just fine.

BTW, in Riverside company hired any government library workers that wanted to stay at the same salary, though with reduced benefits (more closely reflecting the private sector level of compensation).

I guess you didn't bother to read the Riverside County taxpayer-funded studies. I'm shocked!
The NYT provides a fresh perspective.
How was efficiency improved? How are materials selections made? Was staff dismissed? And who replaced them? What qualifications does the new staff have and to whom are they responsible? The public or the company that hired them? How deep were pay cuts? Any benefits? How was circulation and participation improved?
I see Texas still has an opinion about California when it should be examining Texas.
Sadly, Ron, reality trumps your scenario. LSSI has run the Riverside County libraries about 15 years, and everyone is delighted with the results. Everyone but government employees, of course.

One major advantage of a private contractor is that they can be given performance standards, and then monetarily penalized or dismissed for substandard work. Try firing a substandard library employee who has been there for a few years -- let alone an incompetent, uncaring, overpriced government department.

Riverside County is more rural than, say, Los Angeles. But with a county population of 2,125,440 (July 2009), Riverside County is hardly a rural backwater. Indeed it serves a population larger than all but four U.S. cities (it's slightly smaller than Houston in population).

Ron, you can "believe" whatever you want, but facts rebut your pro-public employee bias.
"Outsourcing" is just another attempt by people with a vested financial interest, i.e. a profit motive, to destroy a "public service" that is responsive to the needs of the taxpayer public, and replace it with a for-profit replacement which may, at the outset, show an improvement, but is destined, in the long runn, to cut back on services to the public that they are supposed to serve, for the sake of corporate profits. Another smokescreen designed to villify unions because they primarily contribute PAC money to Democrats. Further, in this writer's/lobbyist's example, he mixes apples with orages in that county library systems are different than city systems and generally serve a different secotr of then public inmore rural areas. Also, the cited examples are very small towns. I, for one, believe that public services should be responsive to the public that they serve, not stockholders in private corporations.
It's funny that Shirley thinks that saying that privatization has had "positive results" equates to "extravagant claims." Gee, I wonder if she just might be a government employee.

While such folks are quick to demand data to demonstrate that privatization is better than government work, they don't seem to demand evidence that government departments' performance is more productive than the private sector. I guess that's just an assumption -- a given, in their minds.
Pure blind union greed.
Here's a press release I put out on this topic of library privatization, based on the Riverside County experience:

San Diego Tax Fighters

****Press Release ****

Authored by Richard Rider, Chairman

January 18, 2011

Time to Think Outside the Library Box

San Diego – As this week's dreary reports from Sacramento confirm, our state and local governments are by necessity cutting library funding. But do such cuts necessitate commensurate cuts in library service? The answer is “no.” We need to consider contracting out the operation of public libraries – as did Riverside County in 1997.

San Diego County has a number of public library systems open to the general public. Two operations are quite large – the San Diego County and San Diego City libraries. In addition, the cities of Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Oceanside, Coronado, Escondido and National City each have their own library systems.

Without exception, each jurisdiction’s library department has become a swelling financial drain on taxpayers. A byproduct has been the reduction of the hours of operation. This expanding cost – reflecting primarily the mushrooming compensation packages for public library employees – has been a growing problem in good times. During this recession, it’s become a much bigger problem.

It’s time to consider an alternative way of delivering library services. There is a company – LSSI – that operates public and private libraries. They improve the service, hours of operation and customer satisfaction. And they can do it for less cost.

We’re not talking about selling off the libraries. Normally the government contracting with LSSI still owns the buildings and materials. But LSSI takes over the operation of the library – meeting the criteria set by the government.

One does not have to go far to see how well this alternative works. In 1996 Riverside County was facing operational difficulties, and so it contracted with LSSI to run their (currently) 33 branch libraries and two bookmobiles. Coincidentally, that’s the same number of branch libraries and bookmobiles now operated by the San Diego County library system.

The results have been well received in Riverside County – by both patrons and politicians. Here’s a 2008 article by the former Riverside County Head Librarian Gary Christmas, MLS – who oversaw the transition, and who now has nothing but praise for the results:
Christmas also prepared for Riverside County a more detailed analysis of the LSSI experience that was published June, 2010.

Read the LSSI summary of their success story below.

But first, go to the LSSI website In particular, watch their seven minute video. Click on the button “View Video.” Yes, it’s a promotion piece, but is has interviews with city managers, mayors and county supervisors who laud their services. It’s really quite illuminating.


The Riverside County Example

With 33 library branches, Riverside County, CA is easily the largest government library customer for LSSI. LSSI has operated the Riverside County libraries since 1996, and apparently is highly regarded in that county. The following is LSSI’s promotional Riverside County summation, available on their website:

Riverside County, California, operates 33 branch libraries and two bookmobiles serving a high growth population approaching 1 million residents in 13 cities across an area approximately the size of Massachusetts.

For more than 80 years, Riverside County contracted with the City of Riverside for library services. The library system was administered by a city-appointed Board of Library Trustees, all City of Riverside residents.

When a state mandated shift of property taxes resulted in funding reductions affecting the county libraries in the mid ‘90s, the individual cities and Riverside County Board of Supervisors sought more direct control. As a result, in 1996 the City of Riverside did not renew its contract to operate the County Library System and the County had only six months to develop an alternative plan.

The County issued an innovative and ground-breaking RFP seeking optimal library services within an established budget. After a comprehensive selection process, LSSI was selected to operate the County Library System. Riverside became the first library system in the nation to outsource its library operations to a private firm.

Through careful monitoring and control of the contract process, LSSI and the County have been able to increase library services without changing funding sources, increased taxes or additional fees. All former library system employees found positions for the same base pay rate and retained vacation time and accruals.

Key operational benefits in Riverside County of the LSSI managed system include:

* · Expansion of the library system from 24 to 33 library sites
* · Expansion of local employment opportunities from 119 local employees to 193
* · More than doubling of total weekly hours of operation from 618 hrs/wk to 1380 hrs/wk
* · Increase of book budget allocation from $180K to $1.95M$5M in additional grant funding
* · Automation partnership with San Bernardino County, greatly increasing circulation access
* · Development of early literacy program
* · Establishment of ESL classes to meet community requirement
* · Development of Latino outreach program, "Leer es triunfar" (Reading is succeeding)
* · Winner of a 2005 John Cotton Dana Library Award


If our politicians ever decide that our cities and counties are supposed to be run for the public rather than for the public EMPLOYEES, we can start pursuing alternative methods of delivering government services – such as LSSI. Since our local governments are running out of financial alternatives, perhaps that time is close upon us. We certainly hope that such is the case.
– 30 –
Shirley, you should talk to the Riverside County Supervisors, and to the sole county government employee who oversees the 33 branch Riverside County library operation. They love it. They rave about the service, the longer hours, the innovations and the dramatic drop in customer complaints.

And yes, I HAVE done just that -- actually TALKED to these officials -- about 2 years ago before writing a column on their experience.

But don't believe me -- check out these studies:

The results have been well received in Riverside County – by both patrons and politicians. Here’s a 2008 article by the former Riverside County Head Librarian Gary Christmas, MLS – who oversaw the transition, and who now has nothing but praise for the results:
Christmas also prepared for Riverside County a more detailed analysis of the LSSI experience that was published June, 2010.
If this bill stands (and it will be approved by our labor union owned-and-operated state legislature), logically it will be the first in a series of such bills to simply outlaw outsourcing government functions in CA. It does indeed appear that California is simply ungovernable at this time.

The only possible way to outsource the libraries will be to first reduce government employee pay and benefits to private sector levels. Since the benefits will be legally difficult to cut for existing personnel, it appears that salaries will have to be cut 50% or more before any outsourcing efforts are possible. Good luck getting the local politicians to take the initiative on this.
B. Samuel Davis June 10, 2011 at 4:08 PM
Public unions are entirely creatures of statute - public employees do not have the right to unionize under any state or the federal constitution. What I don't understand is why these unions are allowed to donate money to the very people who determine their salaries and benefits. That's a big conflict of interest.

And now that we have in hand the consequences of allowing such donations - which are uniformly to one party - can't there be agreement on disallowing such donations? Who can be in favor of allowing such donations, outside of the unions and Democrat politicians who get the money - ultimately taxpayer money - from the unions?

Sorry, just dreaming....without strong support in major media, which will never happen since most of the media supports the same party - the Democrats - that the unions support, this will never happen.

Just another reason to leave California to the Democrats to drive into the ground - with the result that the Governor will come running to the feds for assistance (didn't that happen already?) - the Democrat way.
Shirley Burnham June 10, 2011 at 1:15 AM
"The few California localities that have tried library outsourcing have seen positive results .."
This paragraph reads like an advertisement. It would be helpful to those interested across the world if you could substantiate these extravagant claims. Might you consider providing raw data and unbiased customer feedback ?
Many thanks.