Oh, Lordy, I’ve been waiting for something like this. In dire times local governments sometimes want to take the "public" out of "public library." The Seminole County (FL) government is no exception, though according to the article there’s a petition to stop the process. Right now they’re only seeking bids for outsiders to run the library.Unfortunately, the only plausible company is LSSI , and they’ve faced criticism from various quarters before, and in fact failed to get a different contract to run another Florida library system, as reported back in April in something called the "Library Journal."
If the Seminolians are to do business with LSSI or any other company, I suggest they do their research. Take a look at what one recent dissertation on the subject of outsourcing libraries has to say:
"It is a reality in any contracting relationship that the contractor has a greater amount of power than the entity in charge of overseeing the contract….The contractor has one job – to operate within the specifications laid out in the contract. The overseer of the contract, on the other hand, normally has a host of other duties and monitoring a particular contract is only a small part of their responsibilities. Because the power relationship is so skewed, it is in the best interests of the contracting agency to establish specific, measurable, assessment criteria in the contract for evaluation. Not only must the assessment criteria be specific and measurable, they should also include the discourse of the service that is being contracted out. Ambiguity as to what is assessed in contract oversight will always be to the detriment of the contracting organization. This ambiguity amounts to little more than ‘please run our library and in a year let us know if you are doing a good job.’
The contracting documents essentially show that those on the municipality side of the process abdicate the responsibility of knowing or deciding what the public library is to the community and what its focus for services and collections to the contractor. While the contractor conceivably should participate in the discourse as to what the library is and should be in order for it to perform well within the contract, even the contracts themselves are not final about the purpose and place of the library. In all of the contracts the municipality is looking to the contractor to define the public library in a given time period after the contract is already in place. The lack of detail in the descriptions of the citizens served by the library and the library itself, as well as a lack of detail about contract assessment, allude to a lack of importance attributed by the municipalities towards their public libraries and library service." (107-09)
Think about that for a moment, Seminolians. Do you want some company based in some place you’re not to decide "what the public library is to the community"? Well, maybe those in the government do. They can all probably afford Internet connections and Kindles and all the otheraccouterments of bourgeois civilization. They’re probably obtuse enough to believe that some company can run everything just the same, only for less money. Nothing suffers! They might not even consider the public educational function of the library. They are down in Dixie, after all.
Maybe they think that if the public library is all about bestsellers and videogames, then it doesn’t matter who runs it. Maybe they all mistakenly believe that privatization is always good because the market always provides the best services. Like the businessy librarians who don’t make fine enough distinctions between what works for private enterprise trying to please consumers and what’s necessary for the public good, they might think that outsourcing their public goods is a good idea.
If that’s the case, though, why not outsource the entire government? Does the county really need any public servants? Maybe they couldprivatize the schools next. And then the county government itself. Those county managers are probably pretty inefficient. After all, they’re public employees. Maybe they can outsource themselves and do everyone a favor. Somehow I think that’s not going to happen, though. The people who get to choose whom to fire never seem to fire themselves. Funny how that works.