Despite the opposition of library boosters in Osceola County, Florida, to the proposed outsourcing of county library operations there, the county commission has approved a five-year contract with Library Systems and Services, Inc. (LSSI) to run the library. The 3–2 vote to approve the nearly $25-million contract, which LSSI has assured officials will save the county $6 million over five years, came after reservations were reiterated at a December 12 commission meeting about the long-term impact on the quality of library service and the fate of library workers.
“I don’t see why you have to outsource money to Maryland,” said Kississimee resident John Cortes, according to the December 13 Osceola News-Gazette. “Think about the employees, think about the people, think about your community,” he added, calling into question what would happen to library staff members after the end of a six-month-employment agreement for everyone who reapplies to LSSI for their jobs. Details were made available on the library website.
“We haven’t worked hard enough to get the community’s input into this,” said Osceola County Commission member Michael Harford, who voted against privatization while voicing agreement that the county needed to save money. “We don’t have standards set that we can readily review other than the number of hours of operation.”
LSSI won the contract nearly two years after losing its challenge in 2010 to a state rule change that makes a library’s eligibility for state aid (PDF file, p. 22–23) dependent on the library’s governing body employing a full-time librarian with an ALA-accredited MLS and two years’ prior experience.
Across the country, LSSI may have moved a step closer to adding the Simi Valley (Calif.) Library to its client list of outsourced libraries. The Simi Valley City Council voted December 12 to withdraw the city library from the Ventura County Library System, acting just two weeks before the January 1 enactment of a California law that will mandate cities to document publicly how such a move, made in order to contract out library services, would save money. “We have an opportunity to take action in advance of that law going into effect,” Council member Glen Becerra said.
Although no contract with LSSI has been announced, Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber emphasized that final decisions about the library would remain in municipal hands even if operations were to be outsourced. “Just like any other vendor that we hire, they do it by our rules,” he said, according to the December 13 Ventura County Star. “So people that keep yelling ‘privatization, privatization, privatization,’ that’s not happening here. Our free library will remain free.”
The events in Simi Valley come almost six months after LSSI began managing the three-branch Santa Clarita Public Library. Operating 17 library systems nationwide (including Osceola County Library), LSSI was described in the September 26, 2010, New York Times as the fifth-largest library system in the country when measured by number of library branches, ranking at that time just behind Los Angeles Public Library.