On January 13, the Oceanside Public Library's board of trustees held an unprecedented emergency meeting. The meeting was precipitated by an announcement by city manager Peter Weiss that a private library-operation firm had approached the city, requesting copies of library operating budgets for the two-branch system; Weiss gave the go-ahead for the company to produce a proposal.
The library board resolved that they are opposed to privatization. The board's president, Kathy Christy, stated, “The only way this company makes money is to fire all the staff and rehire only some at a lower wage with reduced benefits. All five of our [board] members are expressing great concern. We have an excellent staff. We are a gem in the city.”
Appointed by the mayor, the library board sets policy and plans for future library improvements. If their opposition isn't enough, perhaps the Friends of the Library organization will prompt the city to close the issue. Last year, the volunteers served 26,864 volunteer hours, the equivalent of 13 full-time staff positions.
One of the most vocal in opposition to the privatization is Gail Wells, a volunteer who manages the Friends Bookstore and the library's farmers’ market booth; she also searches through donated books to find antiquities to sell on Amazon. Last year, Wells generated $58,647 through book sales, of which $29,974 was from her Amazon site. “I would quit instantly,” Wells said, “and so would every one of my volunteers.”
If the pages continue to turn on this issue, library users will look to city councilman Jerry Kern, a big supporter of the library. His wife Blake Kern serves as vice president of the Friends. But board president Christy hopes the early and swift opposition will stop the city from having any further discussion with LSSI.
The board is investigating libraries around the country where LSSI has taken over. “We hear there are some bad relationships in some cities,” says Christy. “We want to know more.”