Saturday, August 1, 2015

Privatization? No!

I usually don't like to link to other blogs but here is a good article about how a private library corporation is having difficulty delivering on their promises. Read the article over at the Huffington Post.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Library Privatization and the Public Good Part I

Recently, when I heard that the Kern County Board of Supervisors were considering privatizing the library system, my immediate reaction was visceral. I was in San Diego eating lunch with my wife and almost choked on my food. After lunch we got on the highway for the four hour drive home. During that drive I thought about my time as a librarian there and all the ways I broke my back to bring superior service to the people of Kern County in spite of the budgetary scraps the board tossed to us.

What is this talk of privatization you ask? In order to compensate for lost oil revenues the Board of Supervisors are considering "innovative" ways to cut costs among the departments. For the library that means farming library service out to a private company such as Library Systems and Services (LSSI).

LSSI is a private, for profit limited liability company based in Germantown, Maryland. No, it's not a California based company. According to their website, they imply that they are able to give local governments more "bang for the buck."They also claim that they "do NOT privatize library services (emphasis mine)," however, their employees are NOT public employees (see: While they manage libraries in other states, in California they have contracts in Riverside County, Redding, and Santa Clarita. The way this works is after a contract is awarded, current employees are laid off. Those who are laid off have an opportunity to interview for their job with LSSI. This is a big cost savings because employee salaries are cut and their pension is reduced to a 401k.

But I have a some other questions for the board of supervisors. Not that I support any outsourcing but what other services are you considering for outsourcing? Parks? Fire Department? Sheriff's Department? What other budget cuts are they considering? We already know that salaries account for the most costly expense. So is the board considering cutting their salaries? How about the County Administrator Officers's salary? (The CAO received a raise of $28,502 in 2013!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Information Revolution?

In a recent View Point that appeared in Information Today (“Library Sales Revolution” June 2012, vol. 29 issue 6) Barbara Quint acknowledges the financial crises both libraries and information vendors are currently facing. Further complicating the situation, Quint argues, is that libraries are being confronted by a “more focused assault of the new all-internet, all-end-user, and all-the-time information technological revolution” which is having the same effect on those who provide libraries with content. Quint offers a solution: create a new business model that will allow vendors and libraries alike to prosper. Important to this solution is for libraries to “maximize the value that their budgets buy for them. In fact, they need to add revenue-building as part of that value. They need to sell (emphasis mine) data as well as buy it.”

It is no secret that libraries all across the United States are suffering financially, some more so than others. This situation has forced us to consider new ways of functioning. The bottom line is librarians are being asked to maintain current levels of service with less. Librarians are creative and there have been many innovative ideas implemented to ease the burden. We have had to step out of our “traditional” roles to learn and do the jobs encompassed in the library (see “The Multi-Tasking Librarian” February 13, 2012). I think, for the most part, we are willing to do what is necessary to ensure free and unfettered access to the information we provide.

I am always open and welcome new ideas that will help sustain and advance library service. But I cannot imagine a situation that would allow libraries to begin charging for information. When the technology revolution gained momentum, it readily became obvious that another dichotomy in society was forming, the “digital divide.” While the digital divide still exists, it was mitigated when libraries made technology available to the public. For those idealistic librarians, such as myself, we hope to end illiteracy and the digital divide (Ok, maybe not end but we certainly want to make a dent!). We recognize that the public we serve come from all walks of life and from a variety of economic situations. We serve the rich and the poor, from the homeless to college students and everyone in between. So, to begin charging for information, we will be adding to the divide and disenfranchising a significant portion of those we serve.

I will close with a quote from The Federalist Papers that is attributed to Alexander Hamilton: “the wealth of nations depends upon an infinite variety of causes.” Among these are the “genius of the citizens [and] the degree of information they possess” [emphasis mine].

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Post-PC Era @ Your Library?

I have taken a break after the death of my father. My intention was to be back at it sooner then another serious family medical problem hit us. Nevertheless I am determined to press on. I wrote this post a while ago but it is still relevant:

Sarah Perez at TECHCRUNCH has an interesting article about the Post-PC Era (”When Will the Post-PC Era Arrive? It Just Did” . She argues that current trends suggest that the Post-PC Era has indeed arrived as evidence by two important benchmarks. Perez notes that “smartphone shipments outpaced PCs for the first time ever, and Apple became the world’s largest PC maker” (this number includes iPads). It looks like consumers are shifting away from desk top and laptop PCs to smaller more portable computing solutions.

This will most definitely change how libraries provide technology to their patrons. Librarians should be attuned to this as it will be a crucial factor in library planning. So, will libraries replace desktop computers with iPads or other portable devices? (3M has a portable eReader option for libraries that subscribe to its new eBook platform). How will your library adapt?