Talk me down (or not) . . .

Mike came home this evening with a flyer from our local library. I’m not sure what I make of it. I’m going to share the pertinent bits of the flyer and my thoughts. If you disagree or have something to add, I would REALLY, REALLY appreciate the input.

Keep our Seminole County Public Libraries Public!
Seminole County Gov’t has posted a request for proposals for privatizing the library system. They are suggesting that outsourcing the library system to a private FOR PROFIT (their capitalization, not mine) company would save the county money, but at what cost to us, the citizens?

* A for-profit company is actually seeking to make a profit off of our tax dollars. (Umm…who builds the roads, libraries, other structures, etc? Private companies! who win the bid for a gov’t job. And, yes!!!, they do it to make money. Why is that bad?)

*Service to the citizen will no longer be the priority, profit will. (My experience has always been that someone looking to make a profit WILL go out of their way to make a customer happy. Maybe it’s just me, but my experience with people who work for our local gov’t really don’t give a flying f***)

*A for-profit company (WHEN did it become a bad thing to run a business to make a profit? Isn’t that how most of us earn our livings? Really, has it come to for-profit=evil? That makes no sense at all.) will now hold all of our private citizen’s (note bad punctuation – from a library lover no less) personal records that were entrusted to the library. (Help me out here. I, 15 years ago, gave the library my driver’s license from which they copied my name and address. It’s 2009, does anyone really think their names and addresses are secret? And, what exactly would this nefarious library company do with your addresses? Sorry, I’m not feeling threatened.)

*The company currently under consideration is not even locally owned (I know you guys read from all over, how many library management companies ‘live’ in your area?), but out of state and none of the profit would stay in Seminole County. (What the flyer fails to mention is that the company in question goes out of its way to hire local employees – and aren’t those jobs kept a stimulus to the economy?)

That’s the “meat” of the flyer. They have a blog, but it has no more details or information. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ve heard me bitch about our local library. The people are lovely – the contents, not so much. They rarely have what we need or are looking for – ever.

The other thing the “meat” of the flyer fails to mention is that by privatizing, the employees of the library are no longer county employees. They no longer have that union protection. And, as much as I like our librarians, I can’t jump on board funding their county-paid retirements when we ourselves have been set back a good 20 years. And, I KNOW Mike and I are not alone.

Anyway, the flyer annoyed the heck out of me. They did not present even ONE good reason to oppose letting a FOR PROFIT company coming in and saving it. The website annoyed the heck out of me too. No details. No links. No foundation. Nothing.

I need to sleep on it, but I will be emailing my County Commissioner tomorrow to let him know that I am all for privatizing the library’s operations.

Am I way out of line? I know I’m not heartless, but . . .

7 thoughts on “Talk me down (or not) . . .

  1. Off the top of my head, as far as a private organization having your information, they may be referring to the records of what books and materials you have checked out. Librarians have fought to keep those records private — at various times other agencies have tried to get those records in order to determine if people are up to something or other, but the librarians have said no, those records aren't for view by anyone at any time — many libraries don't keep those records in a form that is easily readable at ALL (so if you're trying to remember the name of that book you had from the library 2 years ago, the library can't tell you … then again, they can't tell the CIA either).

    It's along the same lines as having all of your computer searches tracked — how do you feel about Google selling info about the type of thing you look up? Could we speculate on why you are interested on medical condition XYZ, and deny you insurance? Why do you keep looking up info on groups like QRS, which we consider a bit radical? Etc.etc.

    As to whether any of this is more likely with a privatized library, I'd suppose it depends on who a private library hires — ALA members or what. Since they're private they can hire who they want. Also, maybe they can make more profit by selling the info, sort of like selling mailing lists.

    I'm not saying I agree, but I think these are some of the arguments that could be made.

  2. PROFIT has become a dirty word. Again with the Atlas Shrugged comparison. Sigh. Earlier this morning I heard a commercial on the TV for an online university (can't remember which one) that said something along the lines of, it's not for profit but to help better the world or some-such. Again, read Atlas Shrugged everyone!

    I've been following the Seminole County Library thing on the news and was wondering how the for-profit company would actually make the profit. My $10 library fine would not pay a library worker for more than one hour.

  3. nd the Atlas Shrugged comparisons. I just finished the book last week, and am constantly shocked at the buzzwords flying around (Profit! Greed! Empathy!).

  4. How will the make a profit is my question. Will they be getting government grants to continue running the place, or will the end-users (us) have to pay for “renting” books? That's what I am not sure of.

    Kaaren (@ work, not logged in)

  5. Well, I sure as heck don't know, but I find it VERY interesting.

    Keep us posted on what happens.

    When I was reading your blog post, I was all like “Yeah! What she said!” Then I read Gail's comment and I was all like . . . “Oh yeah . . .what she said.”

    So I have no viable opinion of my own. Sorry.

  6. Yeah, I was going to post what Gail did about the records. I guess it's hard when your library sucks. Ours is good, in fact great, so I'd be all “BACK OFF JACK!” but it's hard to fear breaking what's already broken.

    I'd want to know more about who will make the book buying decisions, will there still be Bookmobile service for those that can't get out, that sort of thing.

  7. Thanks for your responses – much to think about.

    Gail, I take your point about someone checking out my reading history. Hmmm … crazy right wing extremist who enjoys a good gory crime novel and dabbles in gardening. Can Gitmo be far off (I hope not, I hear it's nice.)?

    Karen and Hillary (and anyone else who likes Atlas Shrugged) wanna start a little email discussion about it?

    Kaaren – my understanding is the profit is made by bidding “high” for the company but low to the state and keeping whatever they save under the bid.

    Deana – I'm curious about the things you mention as well. I have to do some more research over the weekend and see what I can learn.

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