Maybe it’s the crisp air or the molting chickens but some library boards and cities that contracted out to the private library operator, LSSI (“Library Systems & Services LLC – A Brighter Future for Your Library! Library Outsourcing”) have started to terminate their contracts. Library boards are coming to their senses after reviewing LSSI practices. But what happens to the library director who decides to speak out about restrictive LSSI practices?
It seems that the library outsourcer is getting some backlash to their budgeting practices. Reasons behind cities wanting to contract out library services to remove wages and benefits from municipal budgets seem clear. Fiscal times being what they are outsourcing seemed a prudent alternative to closing libraries. LSSI could cut materials budgets by providing a centralized supply hub for their contracted libraries which numbers over 70 library systems nation-wide. But the trade-off of a community oriented library with a library that’s just a cog in a national ‘library chain’ was apparently too much even for the fiscal savings. Maybe the idea of a library for profit didn’t sit well.
A suburban Memphis library wants to end their LSSI contract stating the lack of community oriented titles. It seems that libraries can’t purchase materials that aren’t on the approved LSSI lists, i.e. in their centralized warehouses. This means that local oriented materials or back list titles can’t be bought. It’s a lowest common denominator collection which is great for the bottom line but not so great if your library is attuned to community and regional reading interests. In addition, LSSI adds a 7.5% fee to all library book orders which they fill. Not only do they run the library, they also buy nationwide for all their libraries a one size fits all collection and then they charge their libraries added fees to fill the orders!
That cities and boards are rethinking their contracts means the value of a library with local control and local accountability is getting a worthy reassessment. Cities that outsourced are now seeing the value of a library more connected with their communities. This means the ability to buy materials that fit their unique customer base. It heartening to see these reassessments and it’s amazing to see library directors of LSSI library chains stand up to LSSI and cry foul on materials acquisitions and other budget practices. But there will be fallout before the dust settles on LSSI contracts. The library director of the suburban Memphis library who testified to the library board about LSSI budgeting was fired by LSSI a few days later.