The Watchdog is opposed to a public good being handed over to a private operator. In this case our library has been handed over to Library Services and Systems (LS&S) which is owned by Argosy Private Equity, a private corporate investor. LS&S receives our tax-dollars to operate the library, manages the library to ensure its undisclosed level of profit. In fact, per the corporate-friendly contract the city adopted, LS&S receives an automatic increase no matter how they perform. This is bad public policy and bad business.
Based on a review of its disparate portfolio, Argosy does not appear to have a ‘values’ driven approach other than, probably, they expect returns on investment. Its investments include a wide range of business sectors including inmate telephone services, Rita’s frozen custard and Pizza Hut franchises, mattresses, cat litter, plastics, oil, gas, and nuclear industries, and bullets. The only thing these have in common is the desire to offer returns to investors. Our library is one of the myriad ‘profit and investment’ centers for its owner. Here’s how this appeared to play out in another LS&S library.
Letter from a former Jackson County leader about problems with LS&S there, October 16, 2017.
Letter Excerpt: In 2015, after witnessing staff turnover and hearing of profound discontent, the library district board hired a renowned public library expert to evaluate the management of the Jackson County Library System. That report is available online and speaks for itself as to the efficacy of the outside management firm and its ability to manage our libraries over its eleven-year tenure. Since the report, the JCLD board has repeatedly urged for higher salaries and better benefits for staff as a way to quell staff turnover and offered more money to execute that action. Yet, the outside management team has lumbered to meet that request. Clearly, to meet expectations of hedge fund investors, management has relied on volunteers and minimum wage employees to ensure profits and overhead are met while simultaneously meeting minimum requirements for hours and staffing levels. (emphasis added)
Lest anyone need proof of the disdain LS&S has for community residents actively engaged in the democratic process, this article by Todd Frager of LS&S tells the story. ‘Hyperbole’ and ‘boisterous’ are disparaging terms he uses to describe the 1,000s of residents who signed petitions, attended meetings, testified in favor of saving our library.
But, we agree on one thing, he got the ‘passionate’ right.
Opposition to LS&S
Save our Escondido Library Coalition to BOT Concerns about LS&S performance in other areas. July 28,2017
To City Council, Escondido Indivisible opposition to outsourcing action, September 7, 2017
Media Advisory, Summary of scathing Jackson County LS&S performance audit, Sept.11, 2017