Akito Yoshikane recently wrote the article titled “Public Libraries for Profit” commenting on a developing trend to privatize public libraries around the country. Yoshikane explain that a number of counties around the country have been unsuccessful at finding funding sources to continue keeping public libraries open to the public. When town officials are faced with the option of offering no library services or privatizing them, some are optioned for the latter.
Library Systems & Services (LSSI) is the private company that is usually hired to privatize libraries. The Maryland based company which has been in business since 1981, offers services ranging from taking charge of a particular project to managing both staff and all daily activities. They work in libraries offering services to local communities, schools, colleges, corporations and even the federal government.
LSSI is also involved in helping the library and information science field by creating a couple of scholarships and awards. LSSI has established two scholarships, one aimed at part time students in the information science field at the University of Maryland, College Park, the second scholarship aim to encourage people who are interested in promoting automation in the library field. They have also established an award which recognizes innovative practices in library management in libraries who are par to of the Urban Library Council.
LSSI’s present in libraries has not always been welcome. Libraries tend to reflect the community they serve and private, for-profit, companies which buy material in bulk may not always be able to reflect this diversity. There is also a concern that public libraries which were previously under city government and who’s labor force was unionized, are now loosing this benefit because of privatization. The lost of unionization usually also comes with the loss of state pension benefits, and reductions in medical benefits. Some communities have also seen significant reduction in the hours the library is open to the public.
Some of the formally public libraries that are now under private management by LSSI include libraries in Dallas TX, Riverside CA, Finney County KS, and most recently the libraries in Jackson Country, OR.