March 19, 2012

Lobbyists In Florida Work To Privatize Public Libraries

Budget cuts across the country have provided a new opportunity for corporations looking to cash in. Radio station WMFE reports that Osceola County in Florida recently moved to adopt a privatization effort as a result of budget cuts.

Library Systems and Services, a private company based in Maryland, won the contract to administer six county libraries for five years. Republic Report reviewed state ethics reports in Tallahassee, and found that the firm was helped by the services of Robert R. Reynolds, a registered lobbyist:

As WMFE reported, the new private operators of the library system have quickly moved to cut the benefits of current employees. The new arrangement has also drawn criticism from the Florida Library Association. Faye Roberts, a spokesperson from the group, said the privatized system lacks transparency. “Who’s in charge?” Roberts asked. “Is it an elected official or is it someone whose primary focus, as a private company, would need to be on making a profit.”

  • CatKinNY

    This is very sinister. Unlike prisons and toll roads, libraries are not income generators; they are purely public services providers with constituencies comprised of school kids, the poor and retirees, so what’s the agenda here? Are they seeking to shape the information publicly available to these groups? Will they clear the shelves of books that contain information about evolution and replace them with creationist texts? Cancel their subscriptions to the NYT and replace it with the NY Post? Not order a critically acclaimed new book and spend the funds instead on the latest boilerplate being churned out by a Fox News host?

  • FLbookie

    There isn’t a notable change in service. They still lend books, have kids programs, offer free computer use, etc. The company pockets the money saved by rehiring employees at lower salaries and benefits. Government saves money by not having to pay pensions and benefits anymore. Basically, it’s a union breaker and the employees, who aren’t making much to begin with, get less.

  • WB1993

    Who’s in charge? You can apply that logic to government agencies. Elected officials who care about the interest of the people? That’s idealistic, at least private companies have to answer to their trustees and customers. Once someone is elected…you lost your power to the state.

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