A kind reader sent me this opinion article about AB 438, a bill in California that would make it extremely difficult for municipal governments to outsource library services to private contractors, and seemingly impossible to save any money by doing so. The bill has passed the Assembly and is headed to the state Senate.
You can read the article for details, but basically any outsourcing would have to continue to protect union jobs, which is the goal of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the brains behind the bill.
They have a website supporting the bill. The “privatization beast.” Oooh, how scary! It hosts a very tedious video with people saying how great public libraries are, which is somehow relevant to someone, though I’m not sure how, since outsourced libraries are supported by the public and do the same things regular public libraries do.
There is a guy in the video who says, “Public libraries are supposed to be public, not private.” That’s mighty clever. I’d never thought about it that way.
Various city newspaper editorials are against the bill, arguing that the state bill is too intrusive on local affairs, among other things. Given the perpetual budgetary mess in California, it is sort of ironic that the state government is trying to tell local governments how to spend money.
Since there are a number of California municipalities in serious budget trouble, the choice might very well be between contracting with LSSI or closing down libraries. Which should librarians support?
Unions definitely don’t support libraries. Unions support employees. Albert Shanker, former head of the AFT was right when he said, “When school children start paying union dues, that ‘s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”
The same goes for library patrons. When library patrons start paying union dues, the SEIU will consider their interests.
So which should it be? Outsourcing libraries or closing them? Or raising taxes on people who probably haven’t had a raise themselves in years?
Since we have an ALA conference coming up, this should be perfect fodder for the ALA Council. This is an issue actually affecting American libraries, and would be perfect for the Council to pass a resolution about.
Naturally, since it’s the American Library Association, not the American Librarian Association, the Council should vote for whatever would be best to keep libraries open, not protect librarian jobs until closures force layoffs anyway.
The ALA is supposedly dedicated to maximum access to information. This could clash with the SEIU’s dedication to maximum jobs and benefits for its members.
Considering the ALA has acted against the interests of librarians for years by wooing people into library school with the promise of abundant, but unfortunately nonexistent, jobs, the path should be clear.
How about: Resolved, we oppose any law that could facilitate library closures? Or, we oppose any law that restricts libraries’ abilities to make information as available as possible?
Wait, it could be even better!
Since in the slightly unhinged ALA hive mind anything not purchased by a public library is thus being censored, a law that might threaten library closures by eliminating the possibility of saving them through outsourcing is an intellectual freedom issue. Right?
Thus, the OIF should get involved, and not just the Council. The OIF should issue a proclamation standing up for the intellectual freedom of people in towns around California whose libraries could be threatened in future, and against the heinous censors of the California Assembly and SEIU.
Neither a Council Resolution nor an OIF proclamation would do any good, of course, because no one listens to them, but it would be fun to watch ALA Councilors trying to argue that the jobs of librarians are more important than making sure the public has library service.
Maybe that could be one of those lame “great debates” that keep popping up at the ALA conference. I’d probably skip that one, too.