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Privatizing Libraries by Jane Jerrard

Privatizing Libraries

by Jane Jerrard

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Review for Catholic Library World by Reviewer: Michael F. Bemis, Freelance Reference Book Reviewer, St. Paul, Minn.

This “Special Report” – or white paper, if you will – is one of a series produced by the publisher that together examine topical issues of import to the library community, previous titles having offered up for scrutiny such headline staples as social media and open access.
For the record, the American Library Association (ALA) has defined privatization as “…the shifting of library service from the public to the private sector through transference of library management and/or assets from a government agency to a commercial company” (p. 1). This is the yardstick which the authors use to measure the extent of this movement within the United States.
In four concisely written chapters, the reader learns of the rationale behind this trend (political expediency and perceived cost savings loom large), the case for and against privatization, theory versus practice as revealed by a number of case studies, “Key Issues for Libraries Facing Privatization” (basically, things to be aware of when your institution is in the crosshairs), and finally, a very helpful appendix entitled “ALA Checklists,” which details important points to consider and questions to raise when push comes to shove.
While it is made clear that ALA policy unequivocally states that public libraries should remain in the public sphere, this is far from being a screed against privatization. Evenhanded in their assessment, the authors employ facts and statistics gathered through research to present a balanced look at the pros and cons of this recent trend. “Forewarned is forearmed,” as the saying goes. Therefore, all public library employees and advocates thereof would be well advised to read and heed the message presented here. Lastly, although the focus is on municipal and county run public libraries, privatization can also crop up in academic institutions, so this title would be an appropriate purchase for both. ( )
  bemislibrary | Jan 18, 2014 |
Published by the ALA, who has taken a policy position against privatizing libraries, the bias this book is pretty obvious. Though we speak generally of “privatizing libraries,” there is only one company that offers these services, Library Systems & Services Incorporated (LSSI). So when we say a library has been “privatized” we mean its management has been contracted to LSSI. Of the libraries they profile, the ones that went with LSSI did so because of unique circumstances wherein the local municipalities could not provide management services themselves. In these cases, privatization was a good option and solved their problems. One of these municipalities even reverted back to public management after things got off the ground. The harsh truth of matter is that the only area a private firm can cut financial corners that municipalities cannot: staff and benefits. At least in a RFP response. None of the libraries profiled showed any significant savings. Macro-factors in a given community seemed to determine if a library saved any money or not.

Of course you can always privatize a library like this. ( )
  librarianbryan | Apr 23, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0838911544, Paperback)

This timely special report from ALA Editions provides a succinct but comprehensive overview of the "privatization" of public libraries. It provides a history of the trend of local and state governments privatizing public services and assets, and then examines the history of public library privatization right up to the California legislation introduced earlier this year to restrict cities in the state from privatizing library services.

The book also examines what happens when a private, for-profit organization takes over essential management tasks and decisions of a public library, including the effects this can have on services, patron satisfaction and staff, as well as legal issues. It provides in-depth recommendations for librarians who want to retain control of their own institutions. Complete with case studies, statistics, and a valuable checklist of to-dos for libraries that are facing partial or complete privatization.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:21 -0400)

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