Newhall library lacks a professional library staff

by Lori Rivas     (please go to and comment at The Signal)

Related: See video at SCVTV—Rivas speaks before City Council on this subject (20 minutes in.)

I heard an interesting story:  a public utility facility, in South Central LA, has grounds covered with gravel and weeds, the driveways have oil stains, the building has chipped paint and bullet holes.  The equivalent facility in Bel Air, however, is beautiful, the building plans approved by local home owners, who also dictated the use of special noise reducing equipment, and the removal of an outdoor windsock, required as a safety device.

A public agency, operating on public property, fully funds both facilities, from the same pot of money, and yet the Bel Air neighborhood has more clout in dictating the appearance and function of the plant in their midst.

Would not both neighborhoods benefit from a nicer building, and noise reduction equipment?  Is it kosher that a public agency caters to a louder/wealthier/more powerful demographic?

Of course not.  How, then, do you magnify the voices of those who are marginalized?  How do you empower those who do not have the same access to influence and power?

The answer, my friends, is public services, which level the playing field for poorer communities: public transportation; public education; social workers; community clinics, etc.

And public libraries.

Libraries are the great equalizer, essential to having an educated and literate population.  A public library provides access to information for those who cannot afford to pay for books, for tutors, for advanced learning.  A librarian is the community’s bridge to knowledge, creating order out of the sea of information chaos.

Just as we expect our city bus drivers to be state licensed, our teachers to be credentialed, our social workers to be degreed, our public health workers to be certified, so, too, we should expect our libraries to be staffed by those who have earned an advanced degree in library science.

This is not the case when a library system is managed by a private company, and when those overseeing the contract are not trained librarians.  Then, the inequality persists.  Then, the vocal communities get better service.  More professionals.  More programs.

A commercial contract is driven by customer satisfaction, and plays to the demands of those footing the bill, not to those who are most needy: improving public image, and garnering popular support are the name of the game.  A city management and library board of trustees, who are untrained in library development, are apt to swallow this sales pitch, and not identify or recognize deficiencies.

In August 2010, when the city approved a contract with LSSI, a prevalent citizen concern was that LSSI would cut costs (and maximize profit) by reducing staff.  Today, although we employ 14 municipal librarians, not one single librarian works primarily out of Newhall.

City manager Ken Pulskamp responds that the city employs a “team approach” to serving library patrons, ie, the Newhall library patrons are served *just fine* without their own librarians.

Rather, Newhall “borrows” librarians from the other branches.  A roving librarian works out of Newhall two days/week. Three days/week, librarian hours “fluctuate,” and there are no librarians on Saturday and Sunday.   Newhall library, open sixty-three hours per week, guarantees only sixteen hours of on-site librarian service.

Newhall.  The library that serves the poorest community, the most non-native speakers, the patrons that are least likely to speak out, yet are the most likely to need professional library services.  It is for communities such as these that public libraries were created, and for which library services are so vital.

Fourteen municipal librarians, all primarily assigned to either the Valencia or Canyon Country branches, none to Newhall.

Is this what we signed up for?

Under the county system, Newhall had both a library manager, and a children’s librarian, one of whom was on site, every day, for nearly every hour the branch was open.

City staff and city librarians contest that the Newhall library paraprofessionals are adequately trained to address the daily needs of Newhall patrons, that LSSI provides excellent and on-going training to our library help.

What kind of training?  That’s proprietary information, not available to the public.  Does this training rival the rigor of a master’s degree in library science?  Is LSSI training accredited by the American Library Association, ensuring the depth and breadth of knowledge?  Not likely.

In fact, would you like your local school to employ a “team approach,” instructing your child with non-credentialed teachers?

Would you like the hospital to employ a “team approach,” guaranteeing RNs for only a quarter of patient care?

Is there value in attaining a specialized degree, or are paraprofessionals just as well suited to serve in these capacities?

Is our city government acting in the best interest of our poorer community in this instance?  Obviously not. If they were, our library board of trustees would have fought to employ a Newhall librarian.  Our city management would have certified that Newhall has regular and daily librarian hours.

Instead, Newhall library patrons have been sacrificed, in the hopes that no one would complain, no one would speak out, that the year would pass quietly, and then we would be dazzled by the new library.

But, I’m speaking out.  Will you join me?  Newhall has been short changed, and the inequity should be rectified.

Who benefits when paraprofessionals are doing the work of professional librarians?  There is only one answer to that…and it is not the Newhall library.

Part 2: It ain’t over till it’s over…

Last night Laurie Ender was voted off the Santa Clarita City Council and out of the Mayor’s chair.  She was part of the unwise and uninformed excited duo (she and Marsha Mclean) that comprised the Council’s Library Committee. Ignoring the public’s desire for information and a little due diligence, but seeing the “cracks forming” in the County of Los Angeles Library system, Laurie agendized something, and a few weeks later, our libraries were contracted to be pulled from COLA, and LSSI to be given the keys.

We were told it was over. In one way maybe it was, given the fact the the Council and City staff were too proud to take a moment and try it again more slowly in the light of day.

It would be all forgotten, or so they hoped. But elections happen….

We were told to sit down and shut up—the train had left the station, and the decision had been made. This time Laurie will be aboard that train, and hopefully a few of City staff will apply for jobs as conductors.

Let this be fair warning to other City Councils everywhere, LSSI may or may not be the “Answer”, but actions have consequences and the collateral damage might not  be only your libraries…

Still ain’t over. One down, three to go.

Due diligence, transparency, and the public’s input do matter.

Cities see benefit in library transition—Really…? Not really.

RE: “Simi leaders encouraged by success stories” By Carissa Marsh

Cities don’t see, however City Managers, Council Members or anyone else who helped make a decision regarding libraries or trash collection, will ever say they made a bad decision.

“The decision has been made, and it was a bad one,” said City CFO Darren…

Such admissions tend to get people fired or help lose elections. That’s a fact. Continue reading

Aside

Alan Wylie  —Just to let all the library users and campaigners in Simi Valley know that LSSI have pulled back their operations in the UK due to the level of protest and their inability to persuade any authority that privatisation is the best option for their library service! Please fight to keep your libraries public!

To The Residents of Simi Valley

and the Simi Valley City Council…

Thousands in the community of Santa Clarita understand your concerns for the proposed withdrawal from your county library system and its replacement with a privatized library. Undoubtedly, LSSI, the sole provider for privatized library management, has probably already met with your council members and your city managers. Its lobbyists have already been flown in and lined up to speak at your council meetings.

Yes it is privatization ! : “It has not been easy and we’re still waiting to see if the UK is ready yet for the idea of library privatisation,” said its chief executive Brad King, who also admitted the UK apparently is not ready, although LSSI is,… for profits that is….

So is Simi Valley?

We support you as you raise important questions to your city council before they vote on December 12. Your efforts are important; we hope you continue to raise concerns at council meetings, by making phone calls and sending emails to your mayor and council members.

This website was created to show the lack of transparency by our city leaders in Santa Clarita regarding its library privatization and to expose the rushed, almost silent process, by which our libraries were handed over to LSSI by a $19 million contract. That contract, nothing more than boilerplate, poorly defined the services that LSSI was to perform, did not guarantee that it would match what LA County Library had provided in either resources or personnel, and failed to define exactly how oversight on that contract was to be performed. Nor did the RFP even ask for it.

The words, “The decision has been made,” were said repeatedly by Darren Hernandez, Santa Clarita’s Deputy City Manager in his vain attempt to stifle protest for that decision. That decision resulted in more than $12 million in startup costs, spent to save by Darren’s guestimation of only $400,000 a year. Really? Really.  Well maybe not, but nobody’s talking…

That decision cut us off from the LA County Library System’s services, programs, and collections. That system provided us with more than 20,000 items every month borrowed from other libraries. Most of our degreed librarians were replaced with entry level workers and part timers. Yes, the libraries are open a few more hours a week, but the question is, “Is that a good trade for real librarians and all else the County System provided”?

If this experiment fails, there is no road back for Santa Clarita. LSSI or something like LSSI is in our future. And our City Library is destined to remain a profit center for some company somewhere. Just like our trash collection services.

There are lots of questions to ask, but the big one is “What is the rush?” AB 438? A little due diligence, open process, and public scrutiny?

In the end, just make sure you will get more for less, not less for more, and the oversight is there to prove it.

LSSI knows how to play the game. Simi Valley is just a replay of Santa Clarita, sadly down to the appearance it’s flown in lobbyists and our Deputy City Manager, Darren Hernandez, trying to sell your City Council on LSSI.

(Practice makes perfect, they say. Maybe it wasn’t a mistake if Simi Valley does it too? )

Much of how LSSI plays can be found on this website. Please read on. There is a lot here.

We wholeheartedly support AB 438 and if that is the only reason your city council is rushing this vote, that is no reason.  They should not fear it but agree with it, so that you, the residents of Simi Valley, don’t accrue new costs and you continue to get quality public library services. Is that too much to ask?

Feel free to leave messages or questions here and a resident of Santa Clarita will respond.

Who is Chris Collier? Anybody seen him in Simi?

California Assembly Bill 438 Signed into Law by Governor Jerry Brown

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. Continue reading

Call the Govenor about California AB 438, Urge him to sign AB 438

After the quick and behind the scenes work LSSI did with City staff, the public was completely ignored and our local libraries were privatized. Real librarians were let go and our access to the County’s vast collection cut off. This was all done based on the claim that the City could save $400,000 a year by letting LSSI, the only private company available to run our libraries take over. The County was booted out, Continue reading

City Hall seems to be changing history, The Signal, 9/4/11, footnoted edition

by Lori Rivas on Sunday, September 4, 2011

link to original article published in The Signal:  http://www.the-signal.com/section/33/article/50563/

Santa Clarita has the dubious distinction of inspiring California bill AB438.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, this bill aims to protect other communities from the library travesty that occurred here in Santa Clarita. While not eliminating city governments’ ability to contract library services with a private company, the bill would require that certain common sense, practical measures be in place before out-sourcing library services.

It is exactly our City Council’s lack of due diligence, lack of transparency, lack of public notice, lack of public discussion, that informed this bill.

And so it was with great surprise that I read a recent editorial by Mayor Marsha McLean, “Privatize Libraries in their Interest,” in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and the Pasadena Star News. In her commentary, our mayor claims that Santa Clarita City Council had operated completely above board in outsourcing our libraries to LSSI. (1) (2)

Mayor McLean lays it out like this: the Council conducted extensive research, held a well-attended public hearing, listened to citizens, voted to establish a municipal system, AND THEN went out to bid and contracted with LSSI.

Excuse me? Is there some alternate universe thing going on here?

Because last I checked, and confirmed with City documents, this library thing was a done deal before the public even had a chance to weigh in on the matter.

Mayor McLean stands by her comments, as evidenced by a private email exchange published on SCVtalk.com. (3)

Apparently, chatting up her supporters last summer constitutes public outreach. However, the only documented “extensive research” was performed in 1999 by Arroyo Associates.

Hired by the City, Arroyo Associates determined it was financially wise to remain within the County library system. Continue reading

No Time for Transparency or Public Input

Timeline of City of Santa Clarita Library Privatization Quick View

 December 1999The City of Santa Clarita hired Arroyo Associates, an unbiased consulting firm, to complete an extensive and detailed study entitled “Library Service Delivery and Feasibility Study for the City of Santa Clarita.”  The study evaluated various library service options available to the City. It concluded that since Los Angeles County was spending more than $650,000 on Santa Clarita libraries than the County collected in taxes from Santa Clarita, it was financially wise for the City to remain within the County library system.  Further, the study determined that the Santa Clarita community was overwhelming satisfied with County library service, and there was no need for a change.(Click here to see study.)

 2008—As part of its downtown Newhall Redevelopment Plan, the City envisioned a new and larger Newhall library to replace a much older and smaller library.

—An Ad Hoc Library Committee comprised of two City Council Members was formed to investigate and report on issues regarding the library plan which at that time focused on a new building.

2010—The City engaged in negotiations with County for staffing and operation for the proposed Newhall library in a new building (Originally approximately 16000 square feet.) The City decided to substantially increase the size of the library, despite the County’s concern that a larger library (26,000 to 29,000 square feet) was unnecessary and too expensive. The County warned of its reluctance to fund this larger library. 

—Because of the uncertainty that the County would fully fund the much larger library city management and the Ad Hoc Library Committee met with representatives from a private company based in Maryland, the only such company in the United States which manages entire library systems. Santa Clarita city officials also visited at least one library in California which is operated by this company. Details have been difficult to obtain from the City, since numerous Public Records Act Requests have resulted in the claim that the Ad Hoc Library Committee did not keep records of any of its meetings. (See Timeline documentation pages 1-2  .)

 July 13—After a very vague description of what was being considered, Councilmember Ender agendized item for the August 24th City Council meeting only five weeks later, with the words, ” Uh… I also have some information to share.  Continue reading

“Anomolies…?” & Who Decides What Books are Bought for the Library?

The Request for Proposal PS-10-11-20 — LIBRARY COLLECTION REVIEW AND APPRAISAL dated November 10, 2010 read in part: “There are approximately 450,000 volumes in total. This total consists of approximately 375,000 books, 30,000 audio recordings, 30,000 video recordings and 15,000 periodicals. The selected firm will be provided a copy of the collection listing for the appraisal. The condition of the collection can be assumed to be that as found in the average large, modern public library. The successful proposer will be provided a collection data list of materials to work from. The list should contain the title, publisher, date of acquisition and quantity.”

The RFP provided for a contract award on January 12, 2011 and a project completion date of February 21, 2011—about five weeks to do the review.  How did LSSI complete a comprehensive on-site assessment in one day? Hopefully, the City will make public the list LSSI provided.

Was this RFP awarded, or was it abandoned in favor of having LSSI do the review? Since LSSI receives five percent of the cost of all acquisitions per contract, [In accounting for the cost of the Library Materials, LSSI shall include a fee of five percent (5%) of the cost of the Library Materials ordered (“Materials Handling Fee”) Add another $45,000!]. Is this not a lot like asking the fox to watch the henhouse and charging for security duties?

“Gentlemen are requested to deposit in the Lion’s Mouth the Title of such books as they may wish to have imported.”

Suggestion Box at Ben Franklins Library

The RFP stated that there were 450,000 items in the local collection; you state the County website showed 524,000 items, and LSSI’s one day review came up with 287,000 items. Why was an accurate assessment not done prior to the decision by the City to take over the library? Such details should have been discovered in the City’s attempt to exercise due diligence before awarding a $19,000,000 contract. These “anomalies” should have been reconciled before the City considered taking over the library, so that all costs could be accurately estimated and benefits accurately described. Why weren’t the collections inventoried before the City embarked on this path?Why no community input on new book purchases? Who decides, until the new library is built, which books get tossed for lack of shelf space? LSSI collection experts in Maryland?  Or vague recommendations for the CPLAC. How about the people who use the library? So much for “local” control of our libraries.

Follow the library money, if you can…

There are many questions and issues regarding City Council’s choice to remove our local libraries from the Los Angeles County Library system. Charges and countercharges about what is true or not true about the library takeover abound. Ron Dubberly, a President of LSSI, said at a public Library Committee meeting March 10, 2010 that the opposition is using “lies, big ones.”

The money part of this question is complicated. It is includes savings projections that are always questionable, and various claims made regarding past yearly costs and the tax sources used to pay those costs. Also to be considered are estimated “start-up costs” and what appear to be spiraling actual start-up costs , —and how they will be paid back (see). The question of a new library tax, or to some an old County tax redistributable to the City’s coffers, further clouds the confused picture.  See letter to our City Council from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Continue reading

Another “link” in the “What Happened” document chain…395 out of 400? Really?

The  chain of City exchanges regarding the library to August 24th , can be viewed here.

On February 10, we posted some of the documents regarding the library takeover. See Part 2 – What Happened – Staff Bringing Back the Library Issue, the Process…?

On August 24, 2010, Darren Hernandez made a presentation for the City to explain why the City should assume control of our local libraries. In that statement he said:

“… To determine the costs of operating the libraries through a contractor, a Request for Proposals was issued.  A proposal was submitted by LSSI.  A staff panel reviewed the proposal, using multiple criteria, and the proposal was scored very highly… a score of 395 out of a possible 400.  References were checked… but… and… references were checked.  We called cities and visited cities that were current and former clients of LSSI, and they all recommended the firm very highly.” Continue reading