Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2010 Issue

Local Group Fights Privatization of Their Library

Lssi

LSSI may be offering rewarding jobs, but not unionized ones.


By Michael Stillman

A group of citizens from Santa Clarita, California, is fighting back against the city's plan to turn operation of its public library over to a private corporation. Santa Clarita's plan has stirred passions throughout the land as it could serve as a blueprint for the privatization of public libraries everywhere (see The Executioner's Song in last month's issue of AE Monthly). However, in Santa Clarita, the issue is more personal where a group known as Save Our Library is fighting the city's plan.

In August, the city council announced that management of its libraries would be turned over to Library Systems and Services (LSSI), a Maryland based firm that specializes in operating public libraries. Their services have not always been welcomed by existing librarians and patrons. However, previous cases where they have been called in involved libraries that were in deep financial trouble. Santa Clarita is different in that there was no impending financial crisis when the council chose to turn library management over to LSSI. Presumably, this was seen by them as simply a cost-cutting measure.

Save Our Library sees it differently. According to a lawsuit they recently filed in the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, Santa Clarita will be obligated to pay the County of Los Angeles, which currently operates the libraries, the value of its buildings and personal property (including books) to withdraw from the county system. They see it as a money loser. On the other side, according to an article in the New York Times, LSSI's Chief Executive Officer has pledged to save the city $1 million per year, primarily by replacing unionized employees and cutting overhead. According to the Times article, the CEO expressed a fair amount of disdain for employees of some public libraries, saying policies are all about job security, that employees can go to work for 35 years and never have to do anything, and then get to draw retirement. Anyone employed by LSSI, he said, will have to work. Evidently, he believes many public librarians don't.

The suit filed by Save Our Library also indicated that the City Council threw its plans at the community with little warning. It claims that only a few months ago, it proposed the city take over operation of the library from the county. Then, in August, the Council suddenly announced it would seek a firm to which to outsource its library's operation. However, the group produced evidence that the Council had already been negotiating with LSSI for several months and that the only bid to operate their libraries came from that firm. While this may (or may not) appear unseemly, and LSSI's attitude toward public library employees troubling, depending on your point of view, this suit comes down to an unexpected issue - personal privacy.

In their petition to the court, Save Our Library argues that the California Constitution provides that, among its citizens' inalienable rights, is the right to privacy. They believe that turning over data about what books patrons borrow, what information they access on computer terminals, and other information about them to a private company is a violation of that right to privacy.

They also cite the California Public Records Act which provides, "All registration and circulation records of any library which is in whole or in part supported by public funds shall remain confidential and shall not be disclosed to any person, local agency, or state agency except..." Two of the three exceptions clearly do not apply here - one dealing with the patron him or herself requesting the information, the other under court order. Presumably, the City Council will argue the third exception, that the records can be disclosed to "a person acting within the scope of his or her duties within the administration of the library." One can guess that the City will argue that the private corporation librarians will be acting no differently than do the public librarians today, who are equally covered by this statute. Save Our Library anticipates this argument by saying that putting personal information in the hands of a private corporation "dilutes" the protection. Though the law makes no such distinction, we imagine SOL will point to other personal data, such as social security numbers, tax records and the like to which public authorities have access but that are protected from private eyes. Even if the court finds the exception applies to LSSI, plaintiffs can be expected to still make a vigorous argument on constitutional right to privacy grounds.

Some people may not see privacy as the most important issue here. How important is it to keep your library information private? To this question we can point to heroic attempts by librarians to keep personal records private from federal government investigators who hoped to learn more about its citizens by seeing what books they read. Library privacy is no small matter. Of course, there are other important issues concerning libraries at play in this case, but the plaintiffs cannot argue policy decisions, even bad ones, as they were made by their elected representatives. They are limited to legal wrongs. Still, many see turning over their libraries to for-profit entities, whose primary aim is not to serve the public, but make money for themselves, as being the wrong road for a historically public institution such as a library. It is a place to serve the public, to offer access to knowledge, entertainment, and perhaps social interaction. There are lots of places where such benefits can be obtained from the private sector. Is there no room for one that is operated solely for the benefit of the community?

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> <i>Keep Calm and Carry On</i>, designer unknown, 1939. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, <i>Le Journal / La Traite des Blanches</i>, 1899. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> <i>"Let Us Go Forward Together,"</i> designer unknown, 1940. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, <i>Babylone d'Allemagne</i>, 1894. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Frank Beatty, <i>Out of the Running</i>, 1929. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Wake Up America Day</i>, 1917. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> <i>Danté / Sim • Sala • Bim!</i>, designer unknown. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>[Zodiac]</i>, 1900. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Rick Griffin, <i>Jimi Hendrix Experience / John Mayall</i>, 1968. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Abram Games, <i>Join the ATS</i>, 1941. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Aldo Mazza, <i>Torino / Esposizione Internazionale</i>, 1911. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Robert Motherwell, <i>Julliard School / Dedication - Lincoln Center</i>, 1969. $3,000 to $4,000
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Booth & Williams: NO RESERVE Rare Book Auction, now through July 23, 7:15PM EDT</b>
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> John Muir. <i>My First Summer in the Sierra</i>, Boston, 1911.
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> Ernest Hemingway. <i>For Whom the Bell Tolls</i>, New York, 1940. First edition later printing.
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> Upton Sinclair. <i>The Jungle</i>, New York, 1906. First edition.
    <b>Booth & Williams: NO RESERVE Rare Book Auction, now through July 23, 7:15PM EDT</b>
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> George Orwell. <i>Nineteen Eighty-Four</i>, 1949. First American edition.
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> Harper Lee. <i>To Kill a Mocking Bird</i>, 1960. Early printing.
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> Richard Wright. <i>Native Son</i>, New York, 1940. First edition.
    <b>Booth & Williams: NO RESERVE Rare Book Auction, now through July 23, 7:15PM EDT</b>
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> Dryden, Congreve, and others. <i>Ovid’s Art of Love</i>, London, 1764. English translation of Ovid’s work.
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> S. E. Hinton. <i>The Outsiders</i>, New York, 1967. First edition.
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> J. D. Salinger. <i>The Catcher in the Rye</i>, Boston, 1951. Book club edition.
    <b>Booth & Williams: NO RESERVE Rare Book Auction, now through July 23, 7:15PM EDT</b>
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> Ayn Rand. <i>Atlas Shrugged</i>, New York, 1957. Early printing.
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> J. D. Salinger. <i>Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters</i> and <i>Seymour: An Introduction</i>, Boston, 1963. First [book] edition, third state.
    <b>Booth & Williams No Reserve Sale until Jul 23:</b> Tennessee Williams. <i>Sweet Bird of Youth</i>, 1959. First edition.
  • <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…

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