A Community Guide to
Protecting Your Library from Privatization
Our public library was a jewel and heart of our city, at least until our Mayor and City Council undermined over 100 years of tradition and outsourced it in 2017 to the predatory library outsourcing company, Library Systems and Services (LS&S, formerly LSSI). A lawsuit is pending but even if it is too late to save our library, we wanted to share what we’ve learned in the process to help other communities protect their libraries from the same fate.
Our struggle continues in 2019. Please follow our Library 2019 blog page for the most recent activities.
The Save Our Escondido Library Coalition offers this webpage to communities who are facing outsourcing of their public libraries.
We will continue to update this page as we find more information about LS&S and outsourcing. You will find our story below. You will also have access to reports, media, analysis, comment letters, and other information about the struggle to save the Escondido Public Library. This will be particularly helpful to you if your community is fighting outsourcing to LS&S.
Protecting our public libraries is hard, but worth it.
We wish you well.
A Short History of Our Struggle
We first learned of the intent to outsource our library to LS&S during the adoption of the annual budget. The Mayor and 3 Council members clearly tried to hide the information from the public, but thanks to one library champion on the Council (Council member Olga Diaz) the public was alerted. The community was alarmed since we had already lived through the closing of one of our treasured branch libraries, East Valley Branch Library.
A massive public turnout attended the Library Board of Trustees meetings and this advisory Board voted, unanimously, to oppose outsourcing. A few weeks later, the City Council ignored their own advisers and voted 3-2 to pursue a contract with LS&S. At a later meeting, the Council voted 4-1 to adopt a 10-year contract with automatic increases and significant flaws not in the public interest. A lawsuit was filed in mid-December and is pending.
During this time, the community rose up to protect our library and our beloved librarians. We organized attendance at public meetings, held public rallies, collected over 4,000 signatures of residents against outsourcing, held media events, and encouraged 100s of communications with Council members. Unfortunately, we lost. Now, we are organizing to defeat those elected representatives who voted to hand over our library to a corporate interest.
More information is below but our full record of documents and actions can be found, by date, here On the Issue: Escondido Library Privatization. Please email us with questions at SaveEscondidolibrary@gmail.com. If you find additional information that should go on this website, please send to us and we will share.
Key Documents that Will Help You Save Your Library
- American Library Association: Keeping Public Libraries Public. This is a great intro into all the issues related to privatization of our public libraries.
- Jackson County Library System Audit: Jackson County Library Services Performance Review and Quality Assessment. This document underscored many failings and deficiencies in how LS&S operated the Jackson County Library System. We did a short power point on the results. One of their Board members wrote an important letter on our behalf as well, full of insight into this issue.
- Join the ALA Library Advocacy and create your own Save our Library Chapter.
- The ALA supported our position too.
- Former professional librarians also weighed in.
- Follow In The Public Interest. They have a lot of great information.
- Declarations in our lawsuit show the impact such a decision can have on staff, on the community, and on library patrons.
- Scathing article about LS&S poor performance in Santa Clarita.
Engaging the Community in Actions
- We did a lot of actions to let people know what was happening and to engage them in action. We did an action alert: English & Spanish. And a list of events.
- We did a petition drive and gathered over 4,000 signatures. Here is our petition in English & Spanish
- We staged a LS&S UnWelcome event.
- We did short videos to let LS&S know we didn’t want them here.
- We developed a coalition of organizations and individuals who care about the library and coordinated our actions and media statements.
- We filed many comment letters to communicate our information and positions: Letter to City Council & Letter about LSS Contract conditions in other places.
- We filed a lawsuit to try to enforce California Education Code 18910.
- Our campaign kicked off with an amazing presentation on outsourcing by a local expert. The presentation below is also supplemented with two important reports.
- The American Library Association’s Report and the Performance Audit of LS&S in Jackson County Oregon
- Public Library Privatization: Evading Civic Responsibility
Escondido Indivisible, Together We Will (TWW) North County Inland and Escondido Chamber of Citizens hosted a meeting on July 24, 2017 on introduction to public libraries: why they are important and how to save them. Whitney McCoy, a MLIS candidate, made a presentation on Public Library Privatization: Evading Civic Responsibility.
Video recording of the presentation is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLP6ybddkBE.
News reporting about the meeting is at ‘Save our library’ group forms: vows resistance, Escondido Activists Seek to Block Public Library Privatization, and Privatization of Escondido library staff a hot button issue.
- One city drops LSS as Escondido plans to hand over library
- Saving Escondido’s only public library
- Abed, Masson, Gallo: ‘Screw you, library’
- Busy Escondido Tuesday: Library lawsuit filed, ATF country club fire inquiry continues
- Assembly candidate leads lawsuit against library outsourcing
- City council makes book on Maryland-based LS&S to run library
- City council to vote on library outsourcing
- 150 rally against library outsourcing
- Opposition to Escondido library outsourcing grows
Other Library news
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR AND OP-EDS
- Keep the Escondido Public Library public
- Library Outsourcing Vote is an Outrage
- Former city librarians urge: keep the Public Library Public
- Outsource the Escondido Public Library, is your public library next?
- One Man’s Opinion Drive Library Decision
- Save Escondido Public Library
- Time is Running Out to Fight Library Privatization
- Readers React: Save Escondido library from privatization
City Documents and Analysis
Most of Escondido city’s documents can be found here at On the Issue: Escondido Library Privatization
But one document that was essentially ‘hidden’ from the public until a public records request unearthed: it was the professional assessment of a staff member about outsourcing. Be sure to file public records requests at the beginning and during your struggle. If the staff is against you, they may try to hide critical information.
Board of Library Trustees
Our dedicated members of the Board of Library Trustees put up a heroic fight. They had been sidelined by the Mayor and Council years ago into merely an advisory role. They took significant testimony and wrote two letters:
- Opposing Outsourcing of the Escondido Public Library to Library Systems & Services
- Exploring Alternative Options to Outsourcing the Escondido Public Library
The letters are here at Escondido Library Trustee Letters.
Prior to the Escondido Library Board of Trustees‘ meeting on July 11, 2017, the Times-Advocate reported about the privatization of the Escondido Public Library at Library board to hear presentation on outsourcing July 11. Op-eds on privatization of Escondido Public Library by local Escondido residents were also posted: Shifting library into private hands would be a bad move, Keep the Escondido Public Library public, Letter to the Editor: LIBRARY OUT-SOURCING WILL OPEN CITY TO NEW SET OF PROBLEMS.
At the Escondido Library Board of Trustees‘ meeting on July 11, 2017 (see agenda), City Manager Epp made a presentation about “transferring the day to day operations from public employees to employees of a private company”. A brief write-up of the meeting was posted at Call to Action: Stop Escondido Library Privatization. A local Escondido resident live-streamed the meeting and video is available on Facebook (video no longer available).
The Legal Challenge
The lawsuit is still pending and we will update later. Here was the basis for the case: Lawsuit Fact Sheet.
We have initiated a new library petition and will be in touch with our supporters during this important election year. Three Council members who voted for LS&S, the Mayor (Abed) and two Councilmembers, Gallo and Masson, are up for re-election in November, 2018. They are all facing strong library-supporting candidates. In addition, this council thinks the public will support a library bond to build LS&S a new library with tax dollars. We will not support this.
Wish us luck.