October 10, 2011
AB 438, the library protection act, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown. Libraries are among our most important community assets. The current economy has forced many local governments to make tough choices. A decision that has faced many local governments has been how to pay for and maintain quality library services. The idea that enormous amounts of money could be save by switching from publically operated libraries to libraries managed by for profit companies has been toted about lately,—particularly by LSSI, the only company in the U.S. actually claiming to provide such services. This claim is of course is hard to prove,—or disprove, since LSSI keeps a tight rein on financial information regarding its operations, and it is a private company, and such proprietary disclosures might give to the competition an advantage,—if there were any competition.
Also, it is important to consider that a library consists of not only its collection but its librarians. Both are difficult to quantify or qualify, therefore without a detailed contract and stringent subsequent oversight with audits, the claim that better library services have been provided at a lower cost by LSSI will remain forever an unsubstantiated opinion. The claim will of course be often repeated, both by LSSI in an attempt to procure more contracts, or by the local governments involved to avoid the embarrassment of having made a bad decision to change its library from a public to privately managed one.
From AB 438:
“This bill would impose specified requirements….These requirements, …would include, but not be limited to, publishing notice of the contemplated action in a specified manner, [and] clearly demonstrating that the contract will result in actual overall cost savings to the city or library district…,”
The bill would not take effect before January 1 2012, but apparently a requirement that the result would have an actual “overall cost savings” may be far too restrictive for the City of Simi Valley or LSSI if it were to obtain the contract for library services. There, a push, aided by LSSI lobbyists is moving forward to make a decision before the first of the year, with the purpose of avoiding such a restriction.
A link to this website has been sent to all Simi Valley Council Members. It is our hope, that after reviewing the material here, that common sense and restraint will overcome the fear of research and due diligence that that Council should perform prior to making a decision on this matter.
Further research on this matter is in progress and information will be provided here to help make Simi Valley Council Members aware of the hazards they may face. In the meantime, Simi Valley Council Members are invited to look over the material here to get a better understanding of what such a change could mean, and the political consequences of such an important community decision.