City of Stockton and San Joaquin County Reject Privatizing Library System

On February 8, 2011, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and the Stockton City Council voted to keep the regional library system, which has served library users for more than 100 years, public.  Countering a nationwide trend, officials signed an agreement killing a proposal that would have turned library operations over to a for-profit company.  These actions put to rest a controversy that has raged throughout the County since earlier last summer.

Library Systems and Services, LLC (LSSI), a private company based in Maryland that operates several public libraries around the country, was the only company to respond last summer to the County’s Request for Proposals to privatize library operations.  Friends of the Stockton Public Library and the Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton, both represented by the firm, joined forces to organize in opposition. The Concerned Citizens drew from its experience in a prior successful battle to end a privatization contract for the City of Stockton’s water utilities.  Other city and county organizations joined the effort, including many who support libraries throughout the county.

In addition to submitting the firm’s legal letter to the County, volunteers collected signatures opposing library privatization and actively attended key Board and Council hearings.  They also wrote opinion pieces and letters to the editor of The Record of San Joaquin County to express their concerns about the privatization proposal.  Opponents explained that privatization would not only decrease the transparency and  accountability of library operations, but also degrade the quality of professional librarians and programming at the library. 

All parties involved are pleased with the new public library partnership agreement, which includes increased accountability mechanisms to improve the success of the system.