Wednesday, September 29, 2010


(And, yes, I know this is Tina Fey and not a real librarian, but I can dream can’t I?)

First they privatized the prisons. Now it’s the libraries. A private corporation in Maryland is taken over public libraries in ailing cities and has grown into the country’s fifth-largest library system. But they’re not having it all their way. Library Systems & Services has touched off an acrimonious debate about the role of outsourcing in a ravaged economy. Can a municipal service like a library hold so central a place that it should be entrusted to a profit-driven contractor? Especially when that contractor boasts to The New York Times in a manner most porcine.

“There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries,” said Frank A. Pezzanite, the outsourcing company’s chief executive. He has pledged to save $1 million a year in Santa Clarita, mainly by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization.” The company, known as L.S.S.I., runs 14 library systems operating 63 locations. Its basic pitch to cities is that it fixes broken libraries — more often than not by cleaning house. “A lot of libraries are atrocious,” Mr. Pezzanite said. “Their policies are all about job security. That’s why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.”

I also do recall how it was the nation's librarians who stood alone and told Homeland Security to fuck off when the Feds wanted to know what books we read.

The secret word is Ssssh!


Maggie M'Gill said...

That's a vile rant from the Pezzanite fellow. As a Brit-based librarian, I know this will interest one or two colleagues. Thanks, Mick.

Graeme K Talboys said...

This guy has clearly never worked in a library if he thinks it's an easy job for life (unlike corporate bosses and politicians who seem to do fuck all but hire other people to do their work for them - leaves more time to count their bonuses and directorships, I suppose).

Anonymous said...

It's a shame you feel that way. I'm a professional MLIS degreed librarian that had purposely made the jump to LSSI 5 yrs ago because I believed I could make our libraries better. It's a bit disheartening after dealing with red tape for years without seeing progress in your profession. I prefer the more dynamic, innovative edge of LSSI and LOVE my job all the while providing service levels never possible before.

And yes, I've defended individual privacy and free speech...many a times. It's just something we're born to do. :)

page said...


I volunteered in my jr. high & high school libraries, then worked as a shelver in his local public library through high school & college, then got an MLS.

I have experience working in the public and academic environments, and working for companies that serve libraries.

I currently work for the library-equivalent of IBM (librarians out there will know who I mean.) I get to work with libraries and librarians constantly. It's great. (To the best of my knowledge, my current employer has no financial stake in this venture.)

With all that experience, I hate to think of public libraries going private.

It's easy for you to argue that the government model is stale and in need of work for the company making a profit on the deal. (You work in marketing now, don't you?)

I've watched that horrible government red tape you cite foster some incredible cost-savings over the past 25 years through the creation of regional consortia. I've seen it turn my childhood public library into one of the cultural centers of the community rather than being subsumed into the $METROPOLITAN_LIBRARY and relocated to some dreary building tucked away behind the local grocery store.

What will corporate mentality bring to this? I shudder to think.