ESCONDIDO — The Escondido Library board of trustees voted unanimously to oppose privatization of the Escondido Library. Trustee Myra Salazar made the motion to oppose outsourcing of the library, which was seconded by trustee Gary Knight. The motion passed unanimously.
The library board of trustees is tasked with providing “sound and timely advice and counsel to the Escondido City Council and the City Librarian on the development of plans, policies and programs that are responsive to community needs and desires,” according to the Escondido Library website.
“We listened to the input from the public at two separate meetings and reviewed the many letters and emails that have been written.” said trustee Elmer Cameron, who is also president of the Friends of the Escondido Public Library.
Although the trustees’ role is advisory in nature, their decision and recommendation to not move forward with outsourcing marks a victory for community members who oppose privatizing the public library’s services. The trustees will meet to finalize their letter of recommendation to the City Council.
More than 150 residents, some sporting library heart badges and signs, were on hand at the library trustee meeting on Aug. 8.
The Save Our Escondido Library Coalition has been formed by local Escondido community groups and residents in response to the city of Escondido’s move to consider privatization of the Escondido Public Library.
Several library coalition members spoke about the significant role that volunteers play in supporting the library. Volunteers contribute to library operations and run the Friends of the Escondido Public Library Book Shop, which provides funding for the library. Many speakers vowed that this support is at risk of being lost if the library is privatized.
Coalition members told the trustees that they had amassed more than 1,500 signatures. Liz White, a petition volunteer, said, “At first, we spent a lot of time educating people about what it meant. A week later, they were running to the table to sign the petition.”
Speaker appearances included two former directors of the Escondido library, Laura Mitchell and Loretta McKinney. Mitchell read a letter addressed to the library trustees and City Council by American Library Association President James Neal and Public Library Association President Pam Smith opposing the outsourcing.
“The unfunded pension issue is a real issue and should be addressed with a master plan and timeline,” McKinney stated. She went on to add, “I am not in favor of LS&S. The community is the first to suffer so that LS&S gets their profits.”
Only one City Council member was present at the meeting, Councilwoman Olga Diaz. “I urge the trustees to encourage the council to abandon this idea,” Diaz said. “I’d love nothing more than to pick up my clipboard and work to get community support for the library bond measure.”
Library board chair Ron Guiles said that among his concerns was building support for a new library.
“We need a new library and we cannot pass a bond if we have any organized opposition in the community,” he said.
Laura Hunter, organizer of Escondido Indivisible and coalition member, believes that a decision to privatize would negatively affect public support for a new library.
“If they do this to our current library, why on earth would we support a bond measure for a new library?” asked Hunter.
The City Council will discuss outsourcing of library services at the City Council meeting on at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 16 in the City Council chambers. The coalition will hold a rally in front of City Hall at 3:30 p.m. and residents can speak to the council directly during the public comment period at 4:30 p.m.