11:14 AM Eastern - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New legislation could save libraries from the privatization beast #default

I'm proud to be a librarian and a public servant. After high school, I joined the army for a few years; I traveled the world and saw that people were hungry for better opportunities for themselves and their families. When I left the army, I was at a crossroads and I decided to get my masters degree and become a public librarian in inner-city libraries.

As a public librarian, I focus on my bottom line...serving my community. My library provides valuable programs and services for my neighborhood. Sometimes the library is simply a safe place for children to come to after school, away from the gangs and violence outside my doors.

This is why I'm asking you to tell your friends about privatizationbeast.org, to help save those libraries.

At a time when it's become popular to attack public workers and services, a private company--Library Systems and Services (LSSI)--has come along. The company has shareholders and private equity firms investing in it and they are privatizing public libraries. I know that if a public library becomes privatized, the bottom line will become profits and not the public. This concerns me.

Recently, I attended a packed city council meeting in Santa Clarita and I saw hundreds of community members ask their council not to privatize their public libraries. But the council had already made its decision and it didn't matter that the community was not involved in the discussion. That's why SEIU and thousands of other library workers and patrons are supporting AB 438. AB 438 is a bill that would require community approval before a city could privatize its libraries. LSSI has hired lobbyists and firms to defeat this bill. LSSI knows that in communities where the public is involved in how libraries are run, they often don't hire LSSI. LSSI does not want the public to have a voice.

People should be concerned about paying fees for services that used to be free. Even people who do not use public libraries should be concerned about the fact that their library taxes are not being used for services, library materials or programs, but rather for shareholders and the profits of an out-of-state company.

AB 438 passed its first hurdle and will be going to the California Assembly and Senate for approval within the next couple of months. Please support this bill and tell your friends about privatizationbeast.org, to help save public libraries. Your community's library could be next.

Angel Nicolas is a Community Library Manager at Florence Library in Los Angeles County, California and a member of SEIU Local 721.

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