The very notion of a private library flies in the face of a generations-old institution. Public libraries were once the cornerstones of a community, and even in the digital age of the internet and books on iPads, local libraries still act as education hubs for younger children. Still not the most common notion, the idea of library privatization is gaining steam in California. But many fear that privatization would destroy these iconic houses of knowledge. Others feel that, with a struggling economy, privatization is the only way to way to increase efficiency and cut costs. Assembly Bill 438 is seeking to place limitations on companies wanting to pick up library contracts. Among the contingencies listed in the bill are rules to ensure that no current library employee would lose their pay or benefits. Several cities and counties around the state have experimented with privatized libraries, including Camarillo and Moorpark in Ventura County, and in many of these smaller municipalities there is a clear choice between a privately run library or no library at all. California librarians are cheering AB 438 for making it more difficult to privatize libraries and have been making frequent trips to Sacramento to ask for more funds. How should California deal with its libraries? Do sacrifices need to be made?
Assemblymember Das Williams, D-35th District; author of AB 438 that would set standards for cities & counties to privatize libraries
Kyra Ross, lobbyist, League of California Cities
Deborah Doyle, chair, Legislative and Advocacy Committee, California Library Association