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Should public libraries be put in private hands?

Are private companies better equipped to run public services—like libraries—than the government? That’s a question the city of Santa Clarita grappled with when its city council voted last month to turn its public library over to the private hands of Library Systems & Services (L.S.S.I.), a company that has taken over public libraries in ailing cities in California, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas, growing into the country’s fifth-largest library system. Some residents have circulated petitions warning that private take over of such vital public services will result only in “greater cost, fewer books and less access,” with “no benefit to the citizens.” Are libraries the sacred cow of public services, or could this be a revolutionary model for dire economic times?