Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fun online debate on library outsourcing

RIDER COMMENT: Every so often you just gotta have fun in a debate. I sure did here -- I suspect you will enjoy this.

Someone infatuated with government-run libraries wrote back to take issue with my PR on LSSI running the Riverside County libraries. Initially they wrote me to complain about my one-sided piece. Things got funner and funner after that.


----- Original Message -----

TO: Richard Rider
Sent: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 2:32 PM
Subject: Re: PR: Time to Think Outside the Library Box


Kinda one-sided review in your opinion piece. I looked at your link and dug further at both county web sites. Perhaps you also tried and found Riversides line item budget less than transparent, no metrics on circulation of materials, hours of operation or customer feedback for the past decade?

Being a frequent flier at my local branch library, and occassional user of the city's libraries, I find them worlds apart. Staff at the county sites are very engaging with the public and coordinated learing activities are plentiful.

Yes, I'm interested in the almighty cost to the taxpayer, but that is only one factor worthy of our consideration. The educational and entertainment value of libraries can be measured too, it's just not reported as often.

When did you last visit the Riverside and San Diego libraries?




From: Richard Rider
To: "Chris
Subject: Fw: PR: Time to Think Outside the Library Box

Date: Thursday, August 13, 2009, 3:50 PM

Gosh, Christopher, imagine that -- I wrote a one-sided opinion piece!

Remember, I'm not a reporter. Reporters are trained professional journalists who diligently compose objective one-sided pro-Big Government articles -- mindlessly regurgitating government press releases without seeking contrary opinions -- and they get paid for their work.

I've never visited the Riverside County libraries, but have spoken with several people up there over the years who are regular users. They are VERY happy with their libraries. (I've followed this issue for at least 8 years.) I was last in a San Diego city library on Saturday a week ago.

You seem to be assuming that somehow the Riverside system is substandard. What makes you think that? Because it's not run by the government? I've been able to find no discontent with their operation (tried Google too!). Do you have ANY evidence that such is the case.? Even hearsay?

BTW, how does one measure "the educational and entertainment value of libraries", something you assert can be done?

Oh, BTW, you might want to speak to Nancy Johnson, the the Riverside County head librarian -- the ONLY government employee involved in the Riverside County system -- she is the boss. A 30 year professional librarian, she speaks VERY highly of LSSI. She doesn't equivocate in her praise.

She'll tell you that after LSSI took over, the County Supervisors were delighted because they stopped getting calls from citizens complaining about the libraries. The one Supervisor who voted against the contract (with all the usual concerns) is now one of LSSI's biggest boosters -- his name is Bob Buster, if you wish to contact him.

Ms. Johnson goes on to praise the fact that their library employees are not under the civil service system. LSSI can reward good employees with better pay increases, while withholding same from mediocre performers -- and firing the slothful. Just the potential for firing precludes the need for having to use that tool very often.



----- Original Message -----
To: Richard Rider
Sent: Thursday, August 13, 2009 5:17 PM
Subject: Something about that library you've put on a pedestal

So your a closet advocate for added taxes to support public services as long as public employess have been eliminated!!!
(see commentary below)

Remarks by Judith Auth, Riverside Library Director

Presented to CAL-TAC Workshop, March 11, 2006


Twenty years ago when the LA author Carolyn See came to the Riverside Library to speak, she called us (Riverside and

San Bernardino Counties) the "goat counties." Today we are the fastest growing region in the United States. In 1991 the

Riverside Library participated in a Project for Public Spaces, exploring how a downtown library could be a catalyst for

social and economic change. Today I am gong to tell briefly how we became that catalyst. We presented the library not as

being in the book warehouse business, but in the people development business. We raised the expectations of our public.

And you can too.

Our 2002 ballot measure To Renew the Library was the first successful ballot measure for municipal services in Riverside

in 40 years. The success for measure C belongs entirely to the Library Board and the campaign committee. In spite of the

skepticism of our elected officials, the Library Trustees and the library constituency carried the day.

In 1998 the Library Board authorized a public opinion survey by Godbe Research. The survey results indicated modest

support for a library tax. But before the board could act on the results, several events occurred in Riverside that sidelined

the effort. You may recall the October 1998 City Hall shooting in which the mayor and two city council members were

injured. Then two months later, a nervous policeman shot to death a young black woman. These tragic events put the

City of Riverside under a Summary Judgment by the State's Attorney General.

In 2000, the library trustees met with the mayor to consider a ballot measure for the spring. But this time, it was the

School District that was determined to go out for a major bond issue and the mayor asked the library to step aside.

Undaunted, the Library Board asked for a survey update by Godbe. The results were not promising. At best, it looked as

if an $11 parcel fee could pass with the 66 2/3 approval. Eleven dollars wouldn't accomplish what the survey results said

the public wanted so an education campaign was in order.

The Library hired a local public relations firm to educate the voters and to raise their expectations. Three mailers were

designed to go to each household in the City's Public Utilities bill. The first identified what the needs were. The second

outlined the results of several community meetings identifying what improvements were most desired. The third was

delivered after the successful vote and urged residents to write in support of the library's application for Proposition 14


The campaign committee's first meeting was September 11, 2001. On that fateful day, all 13 of the invited guests showed

up and began strategizing for a successful vote in 2002. The committee chair was a retired judge, the recent recipient of

Riverside's Sunshine Award for the successful remodel of the historic 1909 county courthouse. Other members of the

committee were trustees, members of the library foundation, the county law librarian, a lawyer, a CPA, Friends of the

Library and our consultant who had prepared the educational materials.

Between September 11 and March 2, we raised more than $80,000 in cash and in-kind services for one general mailing

and ads in the local newspapers. One of our first meetings was with the Editor and Publisher of The Press Enterprise.

Together with the committee chair and a trustee, I met this formidable person who grilled us thoroughly as to our likely

prospects for success. I was later to find out that she was favorably impressed by our presentation and she gave us the

support we requested.

An even more intimidating meeting was with the City Council who had to vote to put this item on the ballot. It was a

library trustee who made the pitch, who laid on the rail between the speaker's podium and the dais for the elected officials,

a quarter, a dime and two pennies. "For 37 cents a week," he said, "We can improve our library service delivery by 12

million dollars over the next ten years. That's just a nickel a day."

For promotion we enlisted teams of community leaders, business people, and educators to pose for ads and the direct mail

piece. For the argument in favor we asked the popular president of the community college and the executive director of

Fair Housing. There was no argument against. To get out the vote, we secured a telephone bank in the lawyer's office

and called several thousand persons from the Registrar of Voter's list. We concentrated on those who had voted in the

recent successful school bond election. We crossed off any who were opposed. We sent out absentee ballots registrations.

We printed endorsements in the newspaper. We used automated calling the day of the election. We did not walk

precincts nor did we make yard signs. We did not have media advertisements other than the newspaper.

On election day we received 69% approval for the $19 a year parcel tax with a ten year sunset. In our annual report to the

community published January 14, 2006, we headlined,

Measure C Keeps Its Promises. With a 20% augmentation in funding, we have accomplished a 40% increase in hours

open and public access computers. We have increased programs and programming attendance by 66% for adults, 200%

for children.

We have a new automated circulation system, one new branch library and two more expanded facilities on the horizon.

And now it is time to plan for the renewal of Measure C. The current measure sunsets in 2012. We aim to put a new

measure on the ballot in 2007. If it does not pass, we have a couple more years to try. Our first goal is the formation of a

new committee and then the accumulation of private funds to mount the campaign. Already the survey research folks are

at work assessing the public's satisfaction with the Library's performance to date. The results due this summer should help

us frame our proposal.

In closing I would like to reflect on the power of a successful election. The Library Trustees charged with the

administration of the public library have a renewed sense of their critical role as interpreters of the public will and

defenders of the public library tradition. They recognize that libraries have been notoriously passive about funding,

accepting whatever is left over after public safety and development appropriations are made.

By capturing 69% approval, the Riverside Library is looked at with new respect by the elected officials, and the other city

departments. Two years after our successful vote, the Fire Department went to the ballot box. With help from the

catastrophic fires in the mountains that fall, they got 69% to build five new fire stations. Next year, the Parks, Recreation

and Community Services Department plans to go out for a special tax. Their success or failure will be something we will

study before mounting our next effort.

And finally, library staff understand that their performance on the job makes a difference in the public's support for


I am confident that Riverside's residents will continue to be willing to pay for the enhanced library services they now

enjoy. Measure C has indeed kept its promises, providing more materials, more computers and more open hours.

Borrower registration and attendance are up, programming audiences have doubled. The Eastside Library and Cybrary is

open, demolition has begun for the expanded Arlington Library, and the Orange Terrace Library is on the horizon.

2007 is a year for making more promises to Riverside for its libraries, promises we are just as certain to keep as those we

made in 2002.



Chris, now THAT's a quality response. Seldom do my debaters seek out hard facts on the Internet to refute my case. My sincere congratulations!!!

Of course, you DO understand that the person giving the talk is not a private sector person, but rather a public employee -- the director of the library system. Notice how unfair it was for proponents to use the customer utility bills to send propaganda supporting a library tax increase. THREE TIMES! And note that nowhere do they mention any support or pro-tax activity by LSSI.

Naturally, I oppose such tax increases. I believe in the last decade or so I've written the ballot arguments against two county sales tax increases for libraries. I worked the media and handled the debates, and we ultimately defeated each tax. It's not unusual for government library systems to seek to raise taxes. And it's not often people accuse me of being a tax increase advocate.

Still, great job! Wonderful research! Biting zinger about the "closet advocate for added taxes"!!!!! Swell effort!!!!!!

(Can ya feel it coming yet?)

Only one teeny tiny little problem.

(Your sense of unease should be growing . . .)

The devil's in the details.

(Uh oh. . . . )

Seems one word changes it all around.

(Here it comes!)

Still, great try on your part. And I mean it!

(Okay, okay -- out with it!)

scroll down . . .








Your librarian's article on the parcel tax is about the Riverside CITY library system!!

MY opinion piece is about LSSI running the Riverside COUNTY library system.

Okay, I admit it -- it's not fair they both have "Riverside" in their names. An honest mistake on your part. But since you had fun with your zinger, I thought I'd have my fun as well.

Hell, for all I know, maybe the COUNTY raised taxes for their library as well. Remember, the facilities are still owned by the county. Maybe you could research that for us both. Remember -- that's COUNTY, not city.

And just to state the obvious -- the Riverside CITY library system is run by (and for) city government employees.

P.S. Nothing further was heard from "Chris."

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