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Friends of Library releases statement urging community not to outsource library

ROCKWALL – The Friends of the Rockwall County Library released a statement this morning urging the community to “Say No To Outsourcing Rockwall County Library Services.”

In the statement they wrote that, according to the American Library Association and other sources, only 11 out of 9,221 public libraries nationwide and only 4 out of 552 libraries in Texas are outsourced.

Then they ask the question:  If outsourcing library services is such a great idea, then why are so few libraries doing it?

Major points they make against outsourcing include:

  • LSSI is the only for-profit library outsourcing company in the U.S.
  • LSSI earns a profit by hiring less-qualified workers at lower salaries with less benefits
  • LSSI may be able to gain greater discounts on book purchases
  • LSSI may charge extra service fees to library users
  • LSSI could charge the County extra “Materials Handling” and “Transition Period” fees
  • If LSSI’s services are unsatisfactory and the contract is terminated, the County will incur actual and “hidden” costs to resume current library services
  • If LSSI does not pay library bills in a timely manner, the County’s credit rating could suffer

According to Friends of the Library president Kathleen Rose, after doing quite a bit of research, the group sincerely believes that outsourcing library services is not the best thing to do for Rockwall County and its citizens.

“LSSI is usually called on to fix problems at libraries that we just don’t have here in Rockwall,” she said. “We believe we just have to tighten our belts until the economy improves, but don’t believe we have to take such a drastic step as outsourcing our library services.”

“We’re trying to be realistic. We understand the County has budget restraints. But we’ve worked so hard to get to the level of services we have now and hate to go backwards in the other direction. We need to have professional Master’s level librarians at all times.”

The statement concludes by stating usage of the Rockwall library is “at an all-time high,” and questions how a private company can do a better job of providing services than the library management is already doing.

They also urge community residents to attend County Judge Jerry Hogan’s Town Hall meeting and voice opposition to outsourcing library services June 13, 7 pm, at the Historic County Courthouse on the Square in Old Town Rockwall.

Following is the complete statement:

SAY NO TO OUTSOURCING ROCKWALL COUNTY LIBRARY SERVICES

ATTEND THE COUNTY JUDGE’S TOWN HALL MEETING MONDAY, JUNE 13 AT 7:00 PM IN THE HISTORIC COUNTY COURTHOUSE

HERE ARE THE FACTS ABOUT OUTSOURCING THE LIBRARY SERVICES…

There is only one private, for-profit company in the United States that provides privatization/outsourcing services to municipal and county libraries. The company, Library Services and Systems, LLC or “LSSI” is headquartered in Germantown, MD. In all likelihood, LSSI will be the only company to respond to a Request for Proposal to outsource our library services. It is important that the citizens of Rockwall County have all the facts related to outsourcing the operations and services of the Rockwall County Library to a private, for-profit company.

HOW DOES A PRIVATE COMPANY MAKE A PROFIT WHEN THEY PROVIDE LIBRARY SERVICES?

They hire fewer professionally trained librarians at a lower salary and use clerical staff to deliver services that otherwise are being provided by librarians with a degree in library science. In addition, employees do not participate in a public pension program but rather a private 401(k) program. While the private company offers medical and health benefits, sometimes their coverage is less expensive although the individual premiums of employees can be higher.

The private company is also able to receive discounts on the purchase of books and other library materials based on an economy of scale. The Rockwall County Library currently also receives such discounts.

The private company charges the county an annual management fee that is invoiced twice-monthly and paid through the county budget’s approved funds for the library. They are also able to charge additional administrative fees and in some cases, user fees for various services and activities.

Based on the company’s previous RFP’s and existing contracts with other cities and counties, they also charge the city or county a “Materials Handling Fee” of between 5% and 7.5% based on the cost of books and other library materials being purchased on behalf of the city or county. In Rockwall’s case, that could be as much as $8,550.

There could also be a “transition period” between the time the county signs the contract and when the private for-profit company actually assumes operations of the library. During this time, “all systems are tested, promotional materials developed, resources moved, and staff hired and trained.” This transition period can last for months and the company is paid $15,000/month. In the case of Santa Clarita CA, the transition period was nine months at a cost of $135,000.

WHAT HAPPENS IF WE PRIVATIZE / OUTSOURCE OUR LIBRARY SERVICES AND THE LEVEL OF SERVICE AND PROGRAMS IS UNSATISFACTORY?

The county could cancel the contract of the company. The normal length of a contract for outsourcing library operations and services is three to five years. The contract can be terminated “with cause” any time after the company fails to cure such cause upon 30 days written notice. The contract can be terminated “without cause” with 180 days written notice prior to the end of the county’s fiscal year.

If the contract were cancelled, the county would have to find another third party vendor for library services.

The other alternative would be to resume the operations and services of the library itself, including hiring all new staff and making any necessary modifications to the library’s services, programs and internal operational systems. The actual cost of the county resuming operations is not known nor is the “hidden cost” of rebuilding the citizens trust and good will toward the library and the county.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST ROCKWALL COUNTY WHEN ALL OF THE

CURRENT LIBRARY EMPLOYEES ARE TERMINATED?

If the library services were outsourced, ALL existing employees of the library would be terminated. The county will be responsible for any costs associated with their leaving in accordance with established county personnel policies. The cost is estimated to be in excess of $30,000.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE IF THE PRIVATE, FOR-PROFIT VENDOR DOES NOTPAY BILLS CONNECTED TO PROVIDING LIBRARY SERVICES IN A TIMELY MANNER?

Rockwall County is ultimately responsible for the payment. The county’s name is on the invoice, not the name of the private, for-profit company. Failure by the company to pay bills in a timely manner would reflect badly on the county. If sustained over a period of time, the failure could even possibly affect the county’s credit rating.

SINCE THE ROCKWALL COUNTY LIBRARY IS WORKING WELL, WHAT EXTRA VALUE WOULD A PRIVATE, FOR-PROFIT COMPANY ADD TO THE EXISTING LIBRARY SERVICES?

Usage, circulation, and participation in library programs by the public is at an all-time high. Compared with the other 162 county libraries in Texas, our operating and service delivery ratios exceed those of the state average. The only two areas in which Rockwall is less than average is the percent of expenses used for personnel costs (57% in Rockwall vs 69% for all county libraries) and the library items available per capita (1.23 for Rockwall vs. 5.0 for all other county libraries).

It is hard to see how a private, for-profit company can add any additional value to the services already being provided by the Rockwall County Library.

IF OUTSOURCING LIBRARY SERVICES IS SUCH A GREAT IDEA, THEN WHY ARE SO FEW LIBRARIES DOING IT?

9,221  – # OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES IN U.S.*

11 – # OF LIBRARIES OUTSOURCED*

552  – # OF LIBRARIES IN TEXAS*

4 – # OF LIBRARIES OUTSOURCED

SOURCES:

AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION

TEXAS STATE LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES COMMISSION

LIBRARY SERVICES AND SYSTEMS, LLC WEBSITE

* DOES NOT INCLUDE BRANCH LIBRARIES

By J.J. Smith, Publisher

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3 Responses for “Friends of Library releases statement urging community not to outsource library”

  1. Clark says:

    Keep up the good work Judge Hogan!! Now lets get rid of Dave Madness! He is a thorn in your side and will hold back progress you are trying to make for all of us County residents.

  2. Carol Crow says:

    I agree. I am not for out sourcing either. I want to know where Friends of the Library was when the RISD out sourced all Transportation and Custodial employees. ONE person spoke on their behalf before the school board. Over 200 families were impacted by the same unwise decision.

    So the Friends don’t want outsourcing. The alternatives are to raise taxes to cover the shortfall, cut staffing and/or hours, or decrease salaries. Money can’t just be printed out of thin air unless the Federal gvmt is involved.

    Answers and alternatives are needed – not just outrage.

  3. James says:

    Just do it. Rowlett library is much better and has more childrens books. The current staff is very rude.

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