from a March 20, 2008 Boston Globe; quoted in full. I'll go back and hyperlink later, but I wanted to capture this.
(note to self needs new category)
1)Published on Thursday, March 20, 2008 by The Boston Globe
2 Towns Weigh Privatizing Libraries
by Connie Paige
Already, some towns across Massachusetts are charging for school
sports, cutting school bus service, and imploring voters to raise
property taxes. But now, in an unprecedented move in the state, two
communities are considering proposals to privatize their libraries.
The separate privatization proposals in Tewksbury and Dartmouth are
still in the early stages, but the idea is nonetheless stunning
advocates in a state where towns often put the word free in the name
of their library.
The general approach would be to turn over the library’s day-to-day
operations to private companies. The idea, which would need approval
by the towns in each case, could also put the libraries at risk of
losing state funding.
Celeste Bruno - a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Board of Library
Commissioners, which certifies public libraries - said Tewksbury and
Dartmouth would be the first communities in Massachusetts to
privatize their libraries. She said the library commissioners would
oppose any such move.
“There is a huge difference between a private, for-profit company and
a library which essentially belongs to the community and answers to
every resident in the Commonwealth,” Bruno said.
Privatized libraries are not unheard of in other states. A Maryland-
based company, Library Systems and Services LLC, called LSSI, runs 65
library branches in four states: Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, and
California, according to Dean McCausland, LSSI president.
In a telephone interview, he said LSSI relies on taxes and grants,
but not fees, to run the libraries and turn a profit for the company.
LSSI generally does not hire unionized employees, helping it to save
on benefits packages.
Both Tewksbury, northwest of Boston, and Dartmouth, in the
southeastern part of the state, have been struggling to keep up with
the rising costs of municipal government while keeping taxes
relatively low. Both towns are facing possible property tax overrides.
In Tewksbury, officials have told voters they will face deep
municipal budget cuts this year unless they pass a series of tax
overrides, including one for about $5.3 million. A date for the
override has not been set, said Town Manager David Cressman.
Budget-balancing proposals include imposing user fees to fund all
high school athletics, senior center services, and trash collection,
as well as library privatization.
“They’re all lousy ideas, but so is going broke,” said Jay Kelley,
chairman of Tewksbury’s Financial Planning Task Force.
Kelley said task force members unanimously approved investigating
library privatization after a resident suggested the idea.
Dartmouth is also investigating whether to draw up a contract with
LSSI, said Denise Medeiros, the town’s library director.
Medeiros said that a subcommittee of the town’s Finance Committee is
exploring privatization of other services as well, including the
Department of Public Works.
Medeiros said she does not see privatization as an answer to the
town’s budget problems, because the library would still rely on local
tax dollars to operate.
Finances have been so shaky that the town has already closed one of
its three library branches permanently and another branch
temporarily, Medeiros said.
On April 1, the town’s voters will consider six tax override questions.
One of those measures, raising $250,000, would help cover the library
budget, which is $878,196 this year.
Robert Ferrari of Tewksbury said he believes that private companies
are held to stricter standards.
“I’m pro-privatizing as much of government as possible,” said
Ferrari, who runs a local blog about issues in Tewksbury.
“The government cannot run anything that a business couldn’t do better.”
At the two-story brick library, built in 1999, patrons voiced their
concern about privatization.
Shannon O’Neil, 19, on spring break from the University of
Massachusetts in Amherst, said she has no Internet access at her home
in Tewksbury and needed the library to study for a biology course.
Said O’Neil: “The library’s public, so everyone can use it.”