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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.”

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Comments

Visduh Jan. 21, 2012 @ 8:44 p.m.

"We are a gem in the city”, stated the president of the board of trustees. I cannot say, not having any familiarity with the library in that city. But if it is a "gem", that would make it an exception to the usual Oceanside offerings. The school district is no gem, the PD is no gem, and FD union is trying to take over the city for the benefit of the firefighters, and the city council is a pit of snakes. I can think of nothing in that city that is outstanding in any way, except to be outstandingly bad.

If the city council buys this package and loses all that volunteer assistance, it will have only itself to blame. But, hey, that city council does dumb things almost monthly. What would one more dumb thing be in Oceanside? They call it normal.

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Javajoe25 Jan. 22, 2012 @ 10:03 a.m.

Oh, I can just see this.

Library card? No longer required; Visa, MasterCard, and American Express only. Books loaned for 4 days only; then it will be $2.50 a day late charges. CD's? DVD's? No problem; $1.00 a day. Internet computers? Only $2.50 for 20 minutes. Newspapers? Magazines? 50 cents for back issues; current issue $1.00 - but you get it for 2 whole hours! Oh, restroom 25 cents.

Yea, if any town would be so asinine, it would be Oceanside. It's only my opinion, but let's see if they prove me right.

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suzm Jan. 22, 2012 @ 4:10 p.m.

This company cares only about growing bigger and the bottom line. It would be a tragedy if the city council was shortsighted and gave up control of the library. LSSI wouldn't travel to head start programs to read to some of the neediest children building the foundations for how to read. They wouldn't host concerts or care much for the unique and diverse population of oceanside. They would continue to check out books and do minimal service. You get what you pay for!

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clockerbob Jan. 22, 2012 @ 8:28 p.m.

wages and benefits of staff noted but not a word on if a private firm would improve dvd collection.

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SullyErna Jan. 23, 2012 @ 11:39 p.m.

As a resident of Oceanside I am troubled that the library keeps having its budget cut resulting in the Oceanside libraries having both less material and fewer operating hours. While I do love the staff it sounds like LSSI would both increase the amount of material available and the hours of operation. The reason libraries are hit so hard by budgets is that they are run by the city. This means that the top earning employees make both a hefty paycheck and hefty pensions when they retire. Look at Ms. Polich. She recently retired after what? 25 years? Assuming a low 2% per year pension, and taking into account her salary which probably is around 105,000-120,000 she is looking at a cool $50,000 a year. Regardless the fact that there is an employee making over 100,000 in the library and I am sometimes told that I am #22 or something on the holds list for a new release book does not sit well with me. If LSSI can increase hours increase material and do away with all the management employees earning ridiculous amounts, I would support them. At the end of the day the library is there to serve the community not the other way around.

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