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South County leaders cool to privatization of library system
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San Joaquin County’s exploration of privatizing at least their portion of the library system isn’t gaining much traction with South County political leaders.

Regardless of who gets elected to the Ripon City Council on Nov. 2 – Dan Prince, Chuck Winn, Dean Eueker, or Carolyn Jensen – they have made it clear they’d oppose such a move. It’s doubtful the rest of the council or much of Ripon’s general population would get enthusiastic about such a move considering they have raised over $250,000 in the last few years to furnish their new library and expand programs.

Last week, the Manteca City Council – which is being urged to take a position against the move by the Friends of the Manteca Library – heard a report that the county seems much more interested in privatization than Stockton as to who the Board of Supervisors partner with to run all libraries within the county except Lodi. Each city provides the building and maintenance while the county and Stockton cover most of the staff and materials.

Mayor Willie Weatherford, who was disappointed the council didn’t take a position, says he’s ready to start looking at serious options in order to possibly head off the county move including exploring the possibility of Manteca operating the Center Street library on its own.

“We already contribute money toward additional staffing,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford believes the city has an obligation to its taxpayers and citizens in general not to simply let the county decide the fate of the Manteca Library.

He noted the county uses property tax assessed specifically for library services collected from Manteca property owners under state law for that purpose. He’d like to see what that amount is and whether it could effectively support a free-standing Manteca Library.

Library Systems & Services (LSSI) contends they can use technology, private sector management savvy, group buying power, and non-public sector retirement and benefit packages to reduce library costs and improve services including expanding hours.

The Manteca Friends of the Library essentially believes such a promise of delivering more with less money doesn’t make sense.

The council three weeks ago was presented with a copy of a petition signed by more than 300 people opposing privatization of the library that were collected basically in two days.

LSSI references success stories elsewhere including Riverside County where it has done exactly what it has told the San Joaquin County supervisors what they would do – provide more services for less money.