Escondido, CA
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Outsource the Escondido Public Library, is your public library next?

~ Guest Opinion

Around August 1 I suddenly learned that the Escondido city council was planning to privatize the operation of our Escondido Public Library. After learning more of the details, I created a petition designed to send a message to Mayor Sam Abed and the Escondido city council that the community was staunchly opposed to outsourcing our Escondido Public Library.

Since then I have attended the City Council meetings as well as the library Board of Trustees meetings and have spoken out against outsourcing the library.

You might ask why do I care? The simple answer: The library is a symbol of all that is right in the community. It is a symbol of the unity of the community and a gathering Place for learning, reading, studying and enjoying the atmosphere. It is a place where you can find your favorite authors, ask for books to be ordered, find an array of movies and TV shows on video, books on audio, music CDs, newspapers, magazines and use a computer. It’s a matter of civic and community pride.

For example, I’ve hosted many meetups for the second Saturday concerts in the Turrentine room upstairs at the library. The concerts have rivaled presentations at any major music venue. Concerts range from opera exposed to local musicians, blues, piano, folk and even dance.

Along with the concert typically our group heads out for drinks and dinner locally and afterwards enjoyed second Saturday art walk and art receptions at galleries along Grand Avenue within a block or two from the library.

In addition to the aforementioned,  I’ve attended fascinating history lectures and other educational and historical talks. We also have a great many volunteers running the friends of the library bookstore and we have a unique wonderful archival and research Pioneer room.

I understand that the city council contends it needs to address the pension liability. But of all of the city services that the city council could look at why pull the rug out from under the feet of the most highly visible and popular  city service, our own Public Library?

If the city wants to fix the looming pension problem, why in the world would it choose the one public entity that only represents 3% of the total general fund for the city? That seems like a very impractical and inefficient way of dealing with major budget issues. Why do we have Mayor Abed, councilmen Gallo and Mason along with city manager Jeff Epp so adamant about pushing through this idea although the citizens and community that they serve have expressed their absolute opposition to outsourcing to a private for-profit company?

As there are many other discussions about the legal ramifications of outsourcing the operation of the Escondido Public Library I won’t delve into that issue, but there is much concern, research and discussion on whether the city council may indeed have the latitude to outsource the operation.

I don’t believe that the mayor or city council really understand the support and opposition to outsourcing the library by the community.  Do any of them check out books or materials, or use the services themselves such as  visiting the library to  attend concerts or other events? I can’t answer that question but I can tell you I certainly do and I like and know most of the staff at the library from the research Librarians to the clerks and the bookstore volunteers.

Then there’s the questions about the efficacy of LSS, Library Systems and Services, and the overall satisfaction that LSS can provide to a community such as ours. Jackson County, which includes the cities of Ashland and Medford, Oregon, would like to get out of its contract with LSS and is finding much dissatisfaction with LSS. Although this has been brought up to our Council they have disregarded the fact. For more information about Jackson County’s findings use this link.

jacksoncountylibrarydistrict.org/images/2016_JCLS_Performance_Review/JCLS-Performance-Review_Quality-Assessment.pdf

When a city council refuses to listen to the community that it serves doesn’t respond and respect its own citizenry and its own Library board of Trustees what do we have? We have a government that is not for and by the people but is only interested in serving its own self and its own ideas. It is out of touch and not serving the community as it should.

Let me be clear that two council members Olga Diaz and Mike Morasco voted against outsourcing and are very much appreciated by the citizens and library supporters.

Most agree there is a need for our community to build a new library building, possibly in Grape Day park near the California Center for the arts, or maybe on the same grounds where it is now in Old Escondido. The new building will include private study rooms and other intriguing features and additions to make it the public library of the future to serve Escondido moving forward through the years.

Stripping the library of its public status and outsourcing it to a private out-of-state for profit company is completely incongruent with the idea of building a new library and having the citizenry buy into a bond measure to fund a new library.  If you’re interested in reading and signing the petition against outsourcing you can find the link  here:

www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/323/593/768/

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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