UPDATED FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 9, 2017
CONTACT: Laura Hunter, Escondido Indivisible, 619-997-9983, Christine Nava, Escondido Chamber of Citizens, 760-715-9053
Escondido Library Trustees Agree with Community: Vote Unanimously to Oppose Privatization of the Escondido Library
Save Our Library Coalition logs first big win, but the fight is not over
Escondido, CA: Sporting library heart badges, over 150 residents were on-hand as the Board of Library Trustees voted unanimously to oppose the outsourcing of the Escondido Library.
Citing concerns about loss of transparency, accountability, volunteer support, and community cohesion speaker after speaker urged the Trustees to save the library and recommend against outsourcing. A frequent theme of the commenters was a lack of trust and confidence in the current Council majority when it comes to libraries. It was very apparent that the Council closing of the East Valley Branch is still an open wound for Escondido residents.
“If they do this to our current library, why on earth would we support a bond measure for a new library?” said Laura Hunter, organizer of Escondido Indivisible and Coalition member.
Residents held signs with messages including, “Yes, we really do care about the library, Don’t Export our Tax $$$ Out of State, and Libraries are Sacred”. Organizers ran out of badges as people poured into the hearing.
Several library coalition members reminded them of the significant role that the volunteers play in supporting the library and that the Council risks the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars of support annually if the library is handed over to a private corporation. Many speakers vowed that this support is at-risk of being lost if the library privatizes.
As a long-term volunteer, Virginia Abushanab pointed out that The Shop, run completely by volunteers, generates about $75,000 a year, all of which is given back to the library in sponsoring programs and augmenting the materials budget. At present, The Shop donates $50,000 per year, or one-fifth, to the city. “I find it galling that LS&S has indicated, as written in their budget proposal, that they expect us volunteers to continue to give them the same financial support as we do our beloved public institution,” she said. She, and other volunteers she’s talked with, will not volunteer one minute for a profit-making organization, especially in light of the fact that the transfer was so hostile.
Another active library volunteer said, “Volunteering for free to line the pockets of a corporation is like me going to McDonalds and pushing a broom to sweep up for them. I’m not going to do it!”
Patricia Serrano told the Trustees that as an immigrant she learned English at the library and it allowed her children to have access to books they needed. “My child graduated from a prestigious Massachusetts college. Without the library, my son wouldn’t have been able to succeed as he has.”
Coalition members who have been collecting signatures told the Board that they had amassed over 1,500 signatures. Liz White, a petition volunteer, noted that “At first, we spent a lot of time educating people about what it meant. A week later, they were running to the table to sign the petition.”
Speaker appearances included two former Directors of the library, Laura Mitchell and Loretta McKinney. Ms. Mitchell read a letter opposing the outsourcing from the American Library Association President James Neal and Public Library Association Pam Smith. The letter can be found here, ALA Letter to Trustees and City Council.
Ms. McKinney stated, “The unfunded pension issue is a real issue and should be addressed with a master plan and timeline.” She went on to add, “I am not in favor of LS&S. The community is the first to suffer so that LS&S gets their profits.”
Whitney McCoy, the main presenter for the Coalition, shared significant information and research she had conducted on our library, privatization, and LS&S. She said “This matters because privatizing a public library is a red flag for a local government that is derelict in its duties to its citizenry. Contracting with LS&S will remove our taxpayer money from the local community and put it in the hands of a private, for-profit, equity firm-controlled company with no obligation for transparency and no incentive for responding to our needs”
Only one sitting Council member was present. Lone Council member Olga Diaz noted that she did not sign the Grand Jury response due to the inclusion of outsourcing in the response. “I urge the Trustees to encourage the Council to abandon this idea. I’d love nothing more than to pick up my clipboard and work to get community support for the Library bond measure.”
Chair Guiles said that among his concerns was building support for a new library. “We need a new library and we cannot pass a bond if we have any organized opposition in the community.” He noted the Trustees had received untold comments, letters, and emails on this topic and only one supported outsourcing.
Trustee Myra Salazar had the most compelling defense of the library, “I can tell you, for sure, if it wasn’t for the library I wouldn’t be sitting here today.” She made the motion to oppose outsourcing of our library which was seconded by Trustee Gary Knight. The motion passed unanimously.
Now, the Trustees will meet to finalize their letter to the City Council. The coalition will be present at the next City Council meeting on August 16th. A rally in front of City Hall will be held at 3:30 and residents are invited to speak to the Council directly on public comment at 4:30.
“This is a big win, but it’s not over yet. We will continue to fight for the library we love!”, said Vanessa Valenzuela, a local activist who put the entire hearing on Facebook LIVE. The meeting can be seen here Trustee Meeting August 8, 2017.
This is a significant victory for Save Our Escondido Library Coalition who have worked tirelessly since the first heard about this threat to our library last month.
About Save Our Escondido Library Coalition: The coalition was formed by local Escondido community groups and local residents in response to the City of Escondido’s move to consider privatization of the Escondido Public Library. The coalition seeks to educate themselves and the public and to provide a conduit for Escondido residents to voice their concerns.
Escondido Indivisible, Together We Will Inland North County, Escondido Democratic Club, Escondido Chamber of Citizens, and Escondido Climate Action Alliance