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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.

Originally posted to northsylvania on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 12:53 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    If nothing is very different from you, what is a little different from you is very different from you. Ursula K. Le Guin

    by northsylvania on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 12:53:59 AM PDT

  •  Please note (6+ / 0-)

    that in the NYT article, it was specified that the petition drive was led by an 81 year old woman (Old Skool!) and that the accompanying picture made her look like every scary librarian you ever ran into as a kid.
    I have to go off and deadhead roses over at the big house, but I'll check back in a couple of hours. Thanks for reading.

    If nothing is very different from you, what is a little different from you is very different from you. Ursula K. Le Guin

    by northsylvania on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 12:58:02 AM PDT

  •  Our libraries are closed a lot in Philly. (7+ / 0-)

    And the Mayor tried very hard to shut them down to save money. I feel for Mayor Nutter. He has a hard job. I do not have words to tell you how important the library is and always has been to me.

    I used to be Snow White. And then I drifted. - Mae West

    by CherryTheTart on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 01:01:59 AM PDT

  •  The library has always been more than books. (12+ / 0-)

    It is the center of our civilization.

  •  yay. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KibbutzAmiad, Unique Material

    "Unlike every other nation in the world, the United States defines itself as a hypothesis and continues itself as an argument." - Lewis Lapham

    by Miep on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 01:20:57 AM PDT

  •  yay (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    northsylvania, Unique Material

    you are always right up there, northsylvania,

    You are a great blogger; you go on to being a journalist.

    A really good one.

    People should listen to you.

    Great essay.

    Love and hugs.

    Miep.

    "Unlike every other nation in the world, the United States defines itself as a hypothesis and continues itself as an argument." - Lewis Lapham

    by Miep on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 01:24:44 AM PDT

  •  How do they make money? (0+ / 0-)

    Volumes?

    •  Given that all of our libraries around here are (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      northsylvania, debedb, surelyujest

      'free lending libraries', I can only think two routes are available to them - either start charging lending fees or subscriptions, or go the charter school route, and siphon off public money for private enrichment.

      Either is repugnant.  The real reason these folks hate 'socialism' so much - it prevents them from profiting off every single facet of our lives.  The systematic dismantling of every single 'socialist' aspect of our society is for one reason and one reason only - profit.

      If you feel insulted by anything I've said, find out if it was intentional. I'll let you know if you ask.

      by Ezekial 23 20 on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 05:20:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The love of money is the root of all evil (0+ / 0-)

      Libraries are repositories of our knowledge and civilization and progress.

      Libraries have intrinsic value that you don't see. You can't hold the value of a library or see it. But the value is there.

      Communities that have no libraries lose points for quality of life. People don't want to live there. So libraries silently carry forth the value of a community and property therein.

      <div style="color: #a00000;"> Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshal

      by bronte17 on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 06:59:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  uhm (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bronte17

        I am not sure why you're responding the way you do. Aside from referencing a fake SNL commercial about a bank:

        We make change. If you give us a dollar, we can give you four quarters. We can give you three quarters, two dimes and a nickel. People ask us how we make money? The answer is simple. Volume.

        I do realize libraries have value. I don't see how a company can make profit running them. The whole thing is graft.

        •  My bad. Didn't know where you were coming from (0+ / 0-)

          in addressing the value of libraries.

          <div style="color: #a00000;"> Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshal

          by bronte17 on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 02:29:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Since the gas industry (4+ / 0-)

    is being oh-so-generous toward various community projects throughout PA, your concerns about the pro-drilling displays seem realistic. Offered as "public education", the companies have been feeding their PR drivel to newspapers and teevee stations across the state anyway. Let the libraries be free of their harmless-sounding but poisonous propaganda.

  •  This is all bad, (6+ / 0-)

    LSSI is a cut-rate parasite that way underbids reputable companies who provide qualified and certified librarians.

    The thing that is so sick about this is that no one makes a fortune being a librarian, and yet this unethical company makes a profit by putting unqualified people into jobs and then they barely pay them enough to stay alive. IT IS A DISGRACE.

    You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

    by FrankCornish on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 04:09:59 AM PDT

  •  There are two separate issues here (5+ / 0-)

    One is privatized libraries, while the other is the perils of corporate sponsorship even of wholly public libraries.  They're both obnoxious but I'm more alarmed at the second thing than the first, at first glance.

    The most impressive thing about man [...] is the fact that he has invented the concept of that which does not exist--Glenn Gould

    by Rich in PA on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 04:55:57 AM PDT

    •  The two could merge (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      northsylvania, surelyujest

      I could see the possibility of a privatized library offering advertising space to companies that want to put displays there, pamphlets, etc.

      Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

      by Linnaeus on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 05:44:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  True, (0+ / 0-)

      you have a point there. I suppose it would have been better from a "Libraries UNder Assault from All Sides" perspective.
      Some interesting additional facts about LSSI: they were recently recapitalised by Islington Capital Partners, an investment firm. Their rationale:

      Today, LSSI manages well over 15 library systems on a national basis and is very well positioned for rapid growth. This recapitalization transaction and working capital investment will assist LSSI with its rapid market penetration plans.

      About Islington:

      The firm was formed in 2005 by John Cullinane and Paul Spinale. Prior to co-founding ICP, Mr. Cullinane was President and CEO of BancBoston Capital, the $5 billion principal investing unit of FleetBoston Financial, now Bank of America. Mr. Spinale was most recently Managing Director at Audax Group, a middle market investment firm where he was dedicated to the firm’s $500 million buyout fund.

      Paul Spinale is a big Mitt Romney supporter and donated to him as both Paul Spinale of Audax, and Paul M. Spinale of Islington.
      As for Mr. Cullinane: surprisingly, he's a big supporter of the Democrats, though somewhat impatient with their cack handed messaging.
      So it sounds to me like LSSI is an opportunist as far as corporations go, trading in on recession cutbacks. The Barnett Shale companies on the other hand, have a specific goal in mind and are using strapped public finances to their own advantage: two entirely different things.
      Well Spotted, Rich, but I have the excuse of being in a hurry to go cut yew hedges. I still believe that changing the nature of libraries and how they work, no matter what kind of corporation is doing the changing, is a dangerous precedent.

      If nothing is very different from you, what is a little different from you is very different from you. Ursula K. Le Guin

      by northsylvania on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 06:15:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great topic choice for a diary here. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skwimmer, NYFM

    I've been thinking a lot about this because a nearby town voted down their millage and library funding and suddenly my library has been absolutely lambasted with non-patron hold requests.  People don't wan't to pay taxes for public services, but still want those services to somehow magically exist.  Privatisation of public libraries is nothing short of disgusting--it is Orwell's "Ministry of Truth": Public Information Sector.
    The volunteers are not helping the situation.  They would be doing a much better service for their community by pushing the residents to vote for a separate millage only for PUBLIC library funding, and do anything in their power to prevent corporate funding.  Free volunteers are exactly what corporations dream of--OMG!  Free labor!

    Love is hate, war is peace, no is yes, we're all free. ~ Tracy Chapman

    by surelyujest on Tue Sep 28, 2010 at 06:23:16 AM PDT

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