Tell California Lawmakers: It Should Be Harder to Privatize Our Public Libraries
  • Petitioned California Governor

This petition was delivered to:

California Governor

Tell California Lawmakers: It Should Be Harder to Privatize Our Public Libraries

    1. Petition by

      Gina Quesenberry

      Los Angeles, CA

  1.  
  2.   
October 2011

Victory

Yesterday, after 14,141 Change.org members signed a petition in support, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) signed into a law a bill that will make it harder to privatize local public libraries. 

Librarian Gina Quesenberry started her Change.org petition after watching a public library system in Southern California be taken over by a private equity-owned, Maryland-based company with virtually no community input. There was little she could do to stop what was happening in Santa Clarita, so Gina focused her efforts on state legislation.

The new law protects taxpayers by requiring cities to go through an accountable, transparent process when considering library privatization. It's Gina's belief that - if given an opportunity to review the facts - taxpayers will reject most plans to privatize community libraries. 

Privatization of public services is happening in cities and towns across America. This campaign is just one example of how Change.org members can have an impact on decisions made by state and local government.

Did you know that your California public library could be taken over by a private company? The good news is that there's a bill (AB 438) in the California Senate that will help protect libraries from reckless privatization schemes.

In Southern California, public libraries are being targeted for takeover by Library Systems & Services, Inc. (LSSI), a private company headquartered in Maryland and majority-owned by the private equity firm Islington Capital Partners.  LSSI currently operates 14 library systems and is eyeing more in California. Last year in Santa Clarita, California, residents were allowed just one public hearing before the City Council rushed through a vote to hand over the city's library system to LSSI. Your library could be next.

When municipalities contract with private library service providers like LSSI, it often results in diminished library services and hidden costs to taxpayers. In Santa Clarita, for example, LSSI charges taxpayers a 5% fee for every new book purchased. Concerns arise over transparency and accountability, too. When public libraries are privatized, information that was once public - for example, library staff salaries - becomes proprietary information. The company is also granted access to patron records (e.g. your borrowing history).

So, what's in the bill? The proposed legislation will require local officials to give their constituents adequate notice of plans to privatize and to demonstrate that privatization will benefti the community. 

AB 438 - which was passed in the California State Assembly in June and is now headed to the State Senate for a vote - stipulates that a city or library district that intends to employ a private contractor to operate the city's or the district's library shall require 1) a fair cost analysis, 2) proven savings to the taxpayers, 3) competitive bidding, 4) proven qualifications of the contractor, 5) doesn't displace employees, and 6) performance and financial audits are conducted.

If we're going to stop the privatization of public libraries, we need to start by requiring cities and towns to responsibly puruse these plans. After signing the petition, visit privatizationbeast.org to learn more.

 

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Progress! California Moves Closer To Taming The Privatization Beast

      Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      Recently, I asked for your help to stop the privatization beast from preying upon our public libraries by supporting AB 438 – legislation that would put in place basic protections for taxpayers and the library- before using public funds to...

    2. We're delivering your signatures today!

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      As a vote on AB 438 draws near, California public librarians are hand-delivering your petition signatures to state Senate offices in Sacramento today. Stay tuned for media coverage of the event.

    3. It's time to protect California's libraries and pass AB 438

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      Petition organizer Gina Quesenberry penned an op-ed this week calling on California to safeguard the integrity of its public libraries. She writes, "AB 438 is essential to ensure taxpayers and the library-using public have basic protections..."

    4. Public Library Privatization Spreads to Canada

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      Toronto is considering plans to privatize its public library system, despite opposition from a majority of voters.

    5. What's at risk when public libraries face cuts & privatization?

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      "In the US, libraries now serve a crucial function--they are job research and resource centers, providing free computer and Internet access for those seeking employment." Read more at the Huffington Post.

    6. Reached 12,500 signatures
    7. Good News: Library Bill Clears Another Hurdle, Closer to Passage

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      The bill protecting California's public libraries from reckless privatization cleared another hurdle yesterday, passing out of a Senate subcommittee. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for a full vote. Let's keep the momentum going!

    8. Reached 10,000 signatures
    9. A Library System Privatized Without Voter Input

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      "For one, it happened so quickly," said Lori Christian. "It was how little notice the community had; how little regard the City Council had for the public...and the fact that our city doesn’t have any real budgetary concerns in terms of libraries."

    10. The Library Privatization Debate in California Goes National

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      “I hope to make other communities aware of how a private company can come in under the radar and work with city management and transform a whole public service without community input,” said Santa Clarita resident Lori Rivas.

    11. This Is Our Last Public Space

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      At last week's annual ALA conference in New Orleans,community members from Santa Clarita, California presented before a packed room on how their city quickly - and with little community input - privatized the public library system.

    12. What's next for the legislation?

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      After passing the California Assembly, the bill will now go to the California Senate subcommittee on Governance and Finance for approval and if passed it will go to the senate for a full vote within the next few weeks.

    13. ALA Provides Resources on Library Privatization

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      At the 2011 Annual ALA Conference in New Orleans last week, the ALA released a new guide for communities considering library privatization entitled, "Keeping Public LIbraries Public."

    14. Transparency & accountability an issue in library privatization

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      When public libraries are taken over by private companies, the public loses out. In These Times looks at some of the problems in outsourcing public library management.

    15. Reached 100 signatures
    16. Local activists fight back against library privatization

      Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      A resident of Santa Clarita, California is fighting against efforts to privatize the public library system in her community. Watch her speech to the City Council as she delivers petition signatures.

    17. Reached 50 signatures
    18. Jess Kutch
      Petition Organizer

      "This is exactly the sort of information that you'd want if you were contracting out for work on your home," said Assemblyman Das Williams, "except in this case, the ultimate consumer is the taxpayer." Read more about this effort in California, here:

    19. Reached 5 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • John Wodnick MONTCLAIR, NJ
      • about 3 years ago

      My mother is a librarian. Public libraries are crucial to democracy.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Nancy Fomenko CAMPBELL, CA
      • about 3 years ago

      Is this the last of the information to be bought and sold? Nothing left in the public domain. This is not how I envisioned the country I used to be proud of.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Linda Silva CASTRO VALLEY, CA
      • about 3 years ago

      As a library clerk I would probably be fired and I would not want anyone telling us which books will be bought and which not that is essentially banning books

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Craig Brunelle BOULDER, CO
      • about 3 years ago

      if you take out the library system, you neglect the poor communities. and as recession grasps everyone in the nation, that makes for more poor students. If we don't have libraries readily available, we might as well throw away all hope of becoming an educational powerhouse in the nation again. Signed, one former CA resident.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Audrey Murphy VISTA, CA
      • about 3 years ago

      We must surely now by now privatization of public services does not mean responsible conduct by the companies that takover a public situation. Certainly it does not reduce our taxes. More likely, it increases citizens expenses as the company raises fees.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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