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Privatization of library is possible

Manteca council may revive library task force

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Privatization of library is possible

Volunteer Jasmine Foo helps organize books on shelves at the Manteca Library on Thursday.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED June 4, 2010 3:34 a.m.

California’s ongoing government budget crisis may write a new chapter for the Manteca Library.

And the author could very well be the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and Stockton City Council.

Massive budget shortfalls for both the City of Stockton and county are prompting both entities to rethink library services. The partnership is the backbone of the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library that provides almost all of the funding for staffing and maintaining the collection of various branches in Stockton, Manteca, Lathrop, Ripon, Escalon, and Tracy.  The cities in each instance provide the building, the cost of maintenance and pick up the utilities. Lodi is the only city with its own independent library.

There is now a move afoot to study options ranging from privatization to merging the library system with those in neighboring counties such as Stanislaus to reduce costs.

Manteca City Councilman John Harris called for the revival of the city’s library task force so that Manteca could have input or - at the very least - weigh proposals being made to see of the city has any options.
Councilman Steve DeBrum concurred.

While DeBrum said he had no stomach for privatization, he believes the city’s interests are best served gathering all possible information before either making a decision or backing a plan of action.

“I don’t have a dog in the hunt,” DeBrum said of privatization.

Given Manteca’s own budget problems - it still has a $3.8 million general fund deficit projected for the fiscal year starting July 1 to address - the city’s options may be limited.

About a decade ago when the county was experiencing budget problems and the cities weren’t, Manteca flirted with the idea of breaking off and joining Stanislaus County if they could get a better deal for library services. A parcel tax to support a free standing Manteca Library independent of financial support from the county or Stockton was also toyed with for awhile and then was set aside.

Manteca opted to help extend hours and to avoid cutbacks by kicking in up to $80,000 a year for salaries and collection improvements.
One of Manteca’s proposed amenities built into growth fees assessed on new homes is to pay for a new library. But given the strong possibility the county and Stockton will make big cutbacks in library services in order to balance their budgets makes keeping the doors open and staff in place for the existing library a more pressing issue.

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