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Library board to hear presentation on outsourcing July 11

The Escondido Library Board of Trustees is scheduled for July 11, at 2 p.m. at the Library Board Room.

The board will hear a presentation on “outsourcing of library services.” City staff have so far had two meetings with the Maryland-based Library Systems and Services to discuss the proposal.

The possibility of outsourcing library services using the company was discussed during the budget presentation at the June 14 City Council meeting.

According to City Manager Jeff Epp, “Let’s make sure we know the facts regarding the Escondido Public Library! It is merely a rumor that we are exploring making the Escondido Public Library ‘private.’ What we are exploring is whether or not there are cost savings associated with transferring the day to day operations from public employees to employees of a private company. The Escondido Public Library is and will always be a public library, as will the building, the land, and the collections.”

Epp says that the issue is being driven by cost savings. “As of late June, our exploration of the type of employees to use for library operations is focusing sharply on the cost savings issue. The City Council makes the final decisions on our Library, and without substantial cost savings, it would be very hard to recommend any changes. But whether or not we make changes in the type of employees operating the Library, a review is always a great idea for optimizing operations,” he wrote.

Since the combined budgets of the fire department and police department account for 66 percent of the budget—which the mayor and city council have vowed to maintain at current levels—cuts will need to be made at other departments for the city to realize the savings it needs to offset the rapidly rising costs of the CalPERS pension program.

Recently the city council directed Epp and city staff to explore whether or not day to day services at the library could be performed cheaper using a private company.

Only one U.S. company does such a service: Library Systems and Services, which is based in Rockville, Maryland. The 35-year old company provides library services to 83 library branches, the closest being in Riverside County.

According to a fact sheet put out by the city, the following points are driving the process:

• The library has been and will always remain a core public asset to the Escondido community.

• No changes will be made to this public service without a cost/benefit analysis.

• Measurable outcomes that are financially and fundamentally beneficial to our residents will be required.

• Employees’ careers will not be jeopardized by a transition to a public/private library partnership.

• Library services will remain a transparent and wise use of taxpayer money.

• City staff has reviewed the proposal and held a panel discussion between Library Systems and Services and Library staff.

The next step will be for city staff to conduct a cost comparison analysis. This will be followed by visits to libraries that are run by Library Systems and Services—presumably in Riverside County.

After that, the plan would be to have a public comment period to hear from the voters.

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