Some very good work has been written here about the push for charter schools, and it should be a cause for concern. When corporations run the school system, there is a definite chance that the schools will promote...corporations. I suppose parents could decide to either home school or send their kids to private school, but one takes a lot of education and time and the other takes a lot of money.
This morning's article in the NYT about the privatisation of libraries in several states, as the recession hits the budgets of city halls all over the country set off more alarm bells as it reminded me of an article written in the Fort Worth Weekly some time ago about the subverting of libraries and non profits by the gas industry.
The NYT article was generally neutral, voicing concerns by some patrons that some books might not be available or that services might be cut down by a for profit company. A petition drive by an elderly patron to prevent privatisation was mentioned. The largest proportion of the article was given over to the defence of the move by the company involved, L.S.S.I, and their position that libraries are inefficient because of unions and deadwood.
“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.”
The conclusion of the article was that everything would turn out for the best:
Some L.S.S.I. customers have ended their contracts, while in other places, opposition has faded with time. In Redding, Calif., Jim Ceragioli, a board member of the Friends of Shasta County Library, said he initially counted himself among the skeptics.
But he has since changed his mind. “I can’t think of anything that’s been lost,” Mr. Ceragioli said.
The library in Redding has expanded its services and hours. And the volunteers are still showing up — even if their assistance is now aiding a private company. “We volunteer more than ever now,” Mr. Ceragioli said.
In short: nothing to see here, move along.
Frankly there is something to see, and it ain't pretty. Corporations have their own agenda as has been shown when the companies drilling the Barnett shale in North Texas started funding the Fort Worth Public library, and other non-profits. Libraries serve as public display opportunities as well as lending facilities and:
About a year ago, library director Glenice Robinson broke tradition and allowed the comically misnamed Barnett Shale Energy Education Council to place pro-drilling fliers at all our libraries. Then in July 2009, library management allowed Chesapeake to display a scale model in the central library depicting a pastoral gas well operation. Chesapeake business cards and fliers were available on a nearby shelf filled with pro-drilling books.
Ms. Robinson told me she sees no ethical problems in allowing the Chesapeake exhibit to be placed in the library. However, she did agree to consider my complaint that the exhibit sugarcoats the realities of gas production. And she admitted that she has pursued Chesapeake and other drillers for big donations. But she said there was no connection between the exhibits and fliers on one hand and Chesapeake's money on the other.
This is a worrisome trend. Libraries have always been a place to acquire unbiased knowledge, but a few pro business displays here and a few contrarian books unpurchased there, and libraries become what the media already is: untrustworthy.