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City will not outsource library services

OCEANSIDE — In a cost-saving move the city of Oceanside considered outsourcing public library services, but decided not to pursue a request for proposals from private companies on March 14.The idea to outsource services was considered after the city was approached by Library Systems and Services with a promise of saving the city $300,000 to $400,000 annually.

Councilman Jack Feller requested that the city stop the search process to find a private company to take over library operations. City Council supported the request in a 3-2 vote, in which Councilmen Jerry Kern and Gary Felien voted not to stop the search for a private company.

“I don’t believe the savings outweighs the volunteers (in-kind contributions),” Feller said.

Feller added that the 26,000 hours put in by Oceanside Public Library volunteers annually is worth more than $560,000.

The council majority agreed. Maintaining local control, valuing city librarians and recognizing the volunteers and fundraising support the public library staff has developed persuaded the council majority to vote to continue to run the library with city employees.

“A lot of volunteers have worked many years and say they wouldn’t do it for a private company,” Charlene Williamson, vice president of the Oceanside Public Library board of trustees and former president of Friends of Oceanside Public Library, said. “Loss of local control is the biggest issue.”

Williamson added that a private company could potentially charge fees for services that are currently free, unduly censor material and not provide for the diversity of the community.

“We would lose local control,” Sherri Cosby, interim library director for Oceanside Public Library, said. “Cultural programs wouldn’t happen or would be limited.”

If services were outsourced, all current library staff would in effect be fired, and possibly not be rehired by the private company selected to take over.

Both supporters of city library staff and those who want to pursue outsourcing services recognize that city budget cuts will continue to have an affect on library services that have already been scaled back.

“The problem isn’t going away,” Felien said. “If the library is going off the table something else is coming on the table.”

“Reduction of hours, elimination of services and employees, will continue until costs are under control,” Kern said. “A public private partnership can give comparable, even better services, at a cut rate.”

“I do think this issue will come up again,” Cosby said. “In the meantime we’ll do our best with the dollars and the staff we have.”