Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Privatized Libraries?

There was an article in the Boston Globe a few weeks back about two towns in Massachusetts that were considering privatizing their public libraries.
Privatizing a library involves hiring a for-profit company which is paid an annual sum by the Town, and takes over the responsiblity for running the daily operations of the library. The company would decide what materials to purchase, what hours to be open, what services to offer, and the library staff would be employees of the company, not employed by the Town.
The usual reasoning for considering privatization is the claim that a company can operate more effeciently and cheaply than a municipality can.

The company that is usually mentioned in discussions about privatized libraries is called LSSI (Library Systems and Services, LLC)
LSSI runs several library systems in California, Texas and Oregon, but so far none in New England.

The ALA (American Library Association) has issued a statement opposing the "shifting of policy making and management oversight of library services from the public to the private for-profit sector."

The MBLC has posted some information in response to numerous queries resulting from the Globe article at http://mblc.state.ma.us/advisory/trustees/privatization_pl.pdf

MBLC also recommends several periodical articles on the subject which can be accessed through the "online research" button.

"Public Library, private management" by Mark Hemingway. The American Enterprise, Vol.13, no.5 July-August 2002

"When LSSI comes to town: public libraries, private company: the outsourcing compromise" by Norman Oder. Library Journal, October 1, 2004

"The Selling of the Public Library" by Patricia Glass Schuman. Library Journal, August 1998.

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