Feb. 8, 2010 – The Nevada County public libraries are under threat of outsourcing to LSSI, a private company in Maryland State.
In October, in response to the economic downturn, the County CEO presented the BOS with a Request for Proposals for private contractors to manage the library. The only response was from Library Systems and Services Inc (LSSI). Since then, library supporters have been fighting to keep one of the nation’s finest small library systems under public operation.
These supporters, including the Friends of the Library (FOL) groups in both ends of the County, have identified the downsides of private outsourcing. They include:
Probable loss of current professional library staff.
Risking $400,000 of annual volunteer and cash contributions.
Giving LSSI control of our sales tax revenues, with no requirement that they provide budget details or specific staffing plans.
Handing over management to an out-of-state company with no vested interest in Nevada County communities.
LSSI has received mixed reviews from the library systems they manage; some libraries have terminated their contracts with LSSI early.
Consequently library supporters called for a local solution to the budget challenges. Working with Library and County staff, the Friends of the Truckee Library put together a detailed plan to meet the needs of local communities while operating within budget constraints. Their proposal:
• Keeps the library in public hands.
• Keeps all of the County library branches open with high service levels.
• Maintains the professional quality of library staffing and programming, with just one position eliminated.
• Keeps the library system operating with a positive fund balance (reserve account) for the next 5 years.
• Maintains full accountability and transparency to the public.
• Abides by the language of the voter-approved sales tax measure by retaining children’s librarians and continuing programs for kids and young adults.
This plan became Option A, now making its way through a BOS- designed process. That process included a review and recommendation by the Citizen’s Oversight Committee (COC) to keep the libraries public and operate under Option A.
An Ad Hoc committee created by the BOS also embraced Option A and another public option that fires over half of the librarians. Several Ad Hoc committee members recommended that the County Librarian should be given responsibility for making staffing decisions. But both Committees rejected the option of private outsourcing.
Next in the process is development of a recommendation from the CEO’s office to the BOS for review in February. [Editor comment: The next BOS meeting is February 23rd]
Supporters expect that the BOS will listen to their committees, the public, and others in choosing a solution that addresses the local challenge with a local solution. Option A recognizes that this recession will end, and that keeping the core staff together with control in the hands of the citizens is in the best long-term interest of a vibrant library system.
So far the community is speaking out for the elements of Option A. Both FOL groups in the County have gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions to the BOS, supporting public control of libraries. Nevada City Council passed a resolution asking the BOS for public operation of the library, as did members of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. The important Ghidotti Foundation has stated that their generous annual library grant would not be given to a private company. As well, many individual donors who make substantial annual contributions to County libraries have declared their unwillingness to donate to a for-profit management company. Both East and West side FOL have written the BOS to express support of Option A.
We feel that Option A, after a long and frustrating process, will result in a publicly operated library system that is fiscally balanced, stronger, and positioned to sustain outstanding services as we come out of the recession. We urge concerned citizens to contact their Supervisors and ask them to direct staff to implement Option A.
For more information on the Friends of the Truckee Library, go to http://www.truckeefol.org/