Someone had asked my thoughts on this article about library privatization. I tend to be skeptical of anyone (in this case, Frank Pezzanite of LSSI) who describes librarians in the following way:
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.
(I also suggest reading this Library Journal article for a bit more information/rebuttal of some of LSSI’s claims.)
To me, it sounds like many advocates of privatization (here’s one) highlight things that are already going on in our public library system: electronic catalogs, databases available outside of the library, early childhood literacy programs, ESL programs, etc.
In FY2005, the per capita expenditure for the Worcester Public Library was $23.51. (Source: WPL FY2007-2011 Strategic Plan). That was nearly $7 less than the state average per capita municipal library expenditure.
The FY2011 library budget is $4,293,155.32; there are approximately 182,596 people in Worcester. My calculator says that the per capita expenditure remains at $23.51.
If the per capita nationwide expenditure in 2007 was $38.62 (according to the report Public Libraries in the United States: Fiscal Year 2008, page 99, on this site), then we’re spending about 60% of that. (Even if you look at the local per capita — $31.94 — or the MA local per capita — $35.24 — we’re still very, very low.)
(Would you like it put another way? In FY2005, we were roughly $7 less than the state average. Now we’re nearly $12 less.)
Could privatization get us library services any cheaper than we’re already getting them?
I doubt it.