Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Public Libraries in the U.S.A. Are Under Threat

I know I have an international audience for this blog; but, some stories that concern the U.S.A. seem like stories that could also happen in other countries… 

Did you know that public libraries are going private?

They’ll still admit the public to check out books but they’re owned by private corporations

BloombergBusiness has the article, As U.S. Libraries Are Outsourced, Readers See Public Trust Erode, and I’ll excerpt certain key parts of it:

“A Maryland company [LSSI] that runs public libraries has more than doubled in size in the past decade as governments seek savings. Bibliophile residents complain that an investment in knowledge and culture is being milked for profit.”

A quote from a library professional:

“‘This is meant to increase business profits and drive down quality’, said Esdras Quintana, a 14-year library information-technology employee and member of the Service Employees International Union. ‘We need to invest more in our libraries. Turning over our libraries to LSSI would not be an investment. It would be an abandonment of a precious public asset.’”

Quote from a private citizen:

“’If our libraries are privatized, the companies have a right to do whatever they want and they don’t have to listen to the community’, said Yesenia Contreras, 26, an Arvin resident and community organizer. ‘We live in a rural community. Our kids do not have access to books and computers.’”

Here’s a quote that makes one wonder what the word “government” actually means now:

“Governments have made safeguarding culture a priority since antiquity.”

And, in spite of one person’s positive statement ending the article, this appears very near the end:

“Of the 82 company-run libraries, 47 are in California. Riko Mendez, political director for the SEIU local representing workers from San Jose to Kern County, said LSSI’s model is to cut salaries and benefits, rely on volunteers, and make money by selling library-branded pens and other products.”

As always, I encourage anyone interested in what I’ve excerpted to go read the full article; however, let me end with a quote that absolutely chills me to the bone (please remember that LSSI runs private libraries and that public libraries are what “governments” protected when they were “safeguarding culture”…)

“Today, LSSI is the fourth-largest library operator in the U.S., after public systems in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles County.”

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4 responses to “Public Libraries in the U.S.A. Are Under Threat

  1. Jane Watson November 25, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    I think it has been demonstrated in many countries that, when an institution whose main function is to provide a service for the public good is taken over by a company whose main function is to provide a return for their stakeholders, there is never a good result. Because providing a service like a library is not a profit making venture and often involves having to underwrite various services so everyone using it can access the services it offers fairly and equitably. Private companies may even have good intentions, but they cannot go against their prime directive – which is to look after their shareholders/stakeholders. So the first group to suffer from library privatisation will probably be rural areas, disadvantaged groups, ethnic minorities (what happened to all the books in Hmong language? – Oh, sorry but it was just too expensive to provide them for such small group :-). What is even more tragic is that at the centre of all this you can be sure you will find some distraught librarian trying to provide what he/she feels should still be there in an environment that is depleted and perhaps even some executives in the private company who secretly wish they were not involved in this compromise of values and culture. And, eventually, the very people who need them, who cannot access books so easily, stop using libraries.


  2. Alexander M Zoltai November 25, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    All so sadly, tragically True, Jane…

    Perhaps, with phones getting cheaper (plenty of poor folk have one) and free reading sites like Wattpad, kids and the disadvantaged adults can do an end-run around the corporate/government debacle………


  3. juliecround November 26, 2015 at 5:41 am

    In the UK libraries are being taken over by volunteers who don’t want to see them disappear.


  4. Alexander M Zoltai November 26, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Well, Julie, Good For Them!!!


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