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Public libraries won’t be run by private firm

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POSTED January 27, 2011 2:32 a.m.
The latest chapter on privatizing libraries funded by San Joaquin County is about to end.

The Board of Supervisors will take a final vote on the issue at their Feb. 8 meeting when they are scheduled to approve a new contract with the City of Stockton.

“We’re glad the county supervisors and the City of Stockton have been able to resolve their issues,” said Tom Wilson.

Wilson led a group of Friends of the Manteca Library members in circulating petitions asking the board to reject privatization.

The agreement hammered out by the two entities provides the county with more transparency of how tax dollars they provide Stockton are used to run the Stockton-San Joaquin Library system.

All libraries within the county except the one operated and funded independently by the City of Lodi get funding from the county.

Supervisors were concerned that the money may not have been spent in the most effective manner.

The supervisors were scheduled to vote on the matter Wednesday but there was an issue with the wording of the agreement that needed to be resolved.

Massive budget shortfalls for both the City of Stockton and county prompted 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.

Manteca does have longer hours than other branches as the City of Manteca kicks in additional funding for that purpose.

The private firm of LSSI had submitted a proposal contending they could reduce costs at least 21 percent and extend branch hours by as much as 47 percent if they are awarded a contract to take over the San Joaquin County-operated libraries.

Currently it costs the county $5.2 million for 209 hours of library service a week. LSSI indicated it could provide 223 hours of service each week at the eight county branches for $3,789,707 or 328 hours for $4,478,707.

The LSSI proposal had projected the savings from running both the city and county libraries could range between $1.8 million and $3 million a year depending upon whether hours are significantly increased. Part of the savings would be realized from changes in the pension and benefit packages and part from downing staff through the use of cutting edge technology.
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