After failure of Measure F, what’s next for Kern’s libraries?

Source: Bakersfield Now, June 8, 2016

Kern County libraries will face a much smaller budget, now that Measure F was defeated in the June 7 election. County officials say it’s not clear if hours or service will be cut, and they will keep working with community groups as an alternate way to get extra support for the libraries. … He said that means next year’s budget for libraries will be about $7 million. Will that be enough? … Passage of Measure F would have changed that. The proposal was for a one-eighth cent sales tax for libraries. Wiebe said it’s estimated that would have brought in about $15 million a year. … Measure F actually got more “yes” votes than “no,” but not enough to win approval. According to the latest Kern County Election Department data, there were 43,710 voters approving the measure, and 42,517 voting “no.” But that means approval by 50.69 percent, and a tax measure requires passage by 66.6 percent. …

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Tax would raise $15 million a year for libraries
Source: James Burger and Theo Douglas, Bakersfield.com, April 30, 2016

Advocates for Library Enhancement — formed to oppose privatization of Kern County’s 25 library branches — is now spearheading the political campaign to pass Measure F, a one-eighth cent sales tax on the June 7 ballot. It’s estimated Measure F would increase Kern County’s roughly $7 million library budget by $15 million a year for 16 years, flooding resources into the system that serves 840,000 people across 8,000 square miles. Following years of system budget cuts, many rural branches are now open only three or four days a week. The Wasco branch, for example, is only open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Kern County Library Director Nancy Kerr — who can’t advocate for the tax but can discuss its implications — said if Measure F passes, all branches would be open at least five days a week. …

FIRST LOOK: Kern County Library Tax may provide dedicated funding stream
Source: Charmaine Cleveland, Bakersfield Californian, April 5, 2016

Kern County Library Assistant Director Andrea Apple said on Tuesday that Kern County is just one of two places in the state that still depends on a general fund for its library. But a new ballot measure may change that. During a 30-minute interview on “First Look with Scott Cox,” Apple talked about the June 7th ballot measure, called Measure F, which aims to support the Kern County Library System by implementing a one-eighth-cent sales tax to help fund the location. … According to the assistant director, the measure will only affect taxable goods, leaving out many necessity payments like utility bills and prescriptions. During the interview, Apple also addressed the notion of library privatization, adding that the Kern County Library’s director, who came from a similar, private industry, found little to cut from the location’s budget.

Groups get names removed from Measure F opposition statement
Source: James Burger, Bakersfield Californian, March 31, 2016

Four business-friendly groups whose names were included in a statement opposing Measure F, the Kern County library sales tax measure, have had their names pulled from the document. Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government, the Kern County Taxpayers’ Association, the Kern Home Builders Association and the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce filed a joint lawsuit in Kern County Superior Court March 22 seeking to have their names taken off the statement voters will see in their voter information packet. … Providence principal Tracy Leach, who has contracted with private library management company LSSI, filed the opposition argument and included the four groups’ names in a list of organizations that oppose the proposed one-eighth cent library tax that voters will consider on the June 7  ballot. Representatives for the groups, which had called for Kern County to explore privatization of library management through a contract with LSSI, quickly demanded that the Kern County Elections Division pull their names off the letter because they hadn’t formally taken a position on Measure F.

Library tax
Source: Clayton Huckaby, Kern Valley Sun, March 16, 2016

On Tuesday, March 8 the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to put the proposed library sales tax on the June ballot. The Board of Supervisors approved a measure on March 8 that, if voter approved, would increase sales tax by 0.125 percent and would garner as much as $15 million per year for the Kern County Libraries. The proposed sales tax comes as an alternative to the Board of Supervisors proposed plan to partner with Library Systems & Service Incorporated (LSSI). … If the measure is approved, according to the Advocates for Library Enhancement, the wording of the measure will allow the money to be spent solely on maintaining and improving Kern County Libraries. Although this money may be used only for the libraries, the current general fund funding for the library may be reallocated by the Board of Supervisors to other areas of the budget. The measure could potentially free up general fund money for the Kern County Fire Department, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, or other areas within the county’s budget.

Kern County supervisors approve putting library tax on ballot
Source: Bakersfield Now, March 8, 2016

Kern County supervisors decided Tuesday to put a library tax before voters. The eighth-cent tax on all retail sales within Kern County would bring $15 million to Kern County’s 24 libraries, about double their current budget, according to Advocates for Liberty Enhancement.

Supervisors leery of library tax, but to decide in March
Source: James Burger, Bakersfield Californian, February 2, 2016

Kern County supervisors will on March 1 consider placing a tax measure on the June ballot to support the Kern County library system. But most made it clear Tuesday they’re leery of offering up that tax. So they also voted to issue a request for information that could result in privatization of the library system. … Supervisor Leticia Perez said the county is obliged to give the tax measure serious consideration given that it and the public have spent most of a year digging into how to best support libraries. … And Kern County Administrative Officer John Nilon, tasked nine months ago with taking the public’s pulse on the privatization of library management, told supervisors that the overwhelming message from polls, surveys and community meetings was that Kern residents support libraries, oppose privatization and support a sales tax to improve branches. Nilon said an analysis shows Kern County has one of the most poorly funded county library systems in the state — spending $8 per capita, less than one third the state average of $25. … Most speakers from Lake Isabella, Mojave, Ridgecrest and Bakersfield spoke passionately for the tax measure and a publically managed library system. They said libraries will never get the support they need to run well when they have to compete with the Sheriff’s Office, Fire Department and other critical county departments. They urged supervisors to put the tax on the ballot and let the people decide how to fund their libraries.

A handy sign that a local government is shirking its public duty: privatizing the library
Source: Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2016

Library privatization is an artifact of the long slide in spending in public infrastructure, the result of viewing the public budget as an expense item instead of a source of investment. … The Kern County libraries are an object lesson. With spending of $9 per capita, the system is the worst-funded of its size in California, according to Advocates for Library Enhancement, a local group fighting the privatization plan and campaigning to place the sales-tax increase on the ballot. The statewide average, the group says, is $25 per capita.  Chronic underfunding and repeated budget cuts have allowed the Kern County libraries to deteriorate physically, while the county spends money instead on an 822-bed expansion of its jail. Library employees are among the lowest paid public workers in Kern County, the advocacy group says. Turning management over to a firm that will add its own profits to all the other expenses incurred by a library system doesn’t seem on the surface to be a path to improved library services. The money will still have to be found to improve and maintain the physical plant, acquire books and magazines, and upgrade the system’s electronic access.

Tuesday looms as showdown day in library battle
Source: James Burger, The Bakersfield Californian, January 29, 2016

Nine months of surveying, polling, meeting and debating the idea of library privatization may run headlong into a stark legal reality Tuesday. Kern County supervisors could find it painfully difficult — if not impossible — to privatize management of the Kern County Library system. … But Gleason indicated that supervisors may have to take a step back from privatization, after being reminded of the role SEIU could play in the process. Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner said Thursday that the Service Employees International Union, which represents employees of the Kern County Library system, has a right to negotiate any outsourcing with the county. If the union and the county can’t agree on privatization — and can’t resolve their differences through arbitration — then supervisors could impose privatization over the union’s opposition.

Library lovers want strong and public libraries
Source: James Burger, Bakersfield Californian, December 15, 2015

The small group of library lovers who met Tuesday night at Beale Memorial Library were pretty clear about what they didn’t want to happen to their library. They didn’t want to lose professional staff. They didn’t want volunteer groups to be sidelined. They didn’t want the contributions they’ve made to the system with volunteer hours and book sales to be shifted into the control of a private company. … Surveys, polls and more than 20 public meetings at libraries across Kern County have delivered the same message, he said. “What the public has told (county supervisors) is they aren’t interested in a public-private partnership,” Nilon said. Nilon asked the group to raise a hand if they would support library privatization. … Kern County spends more general fund money on libraries than any other county in the state, he told attendees, because every other county has other sources of funding for libraries. Kern County spends $7.2 million on its libraries. Fresno County spends $28 million. Fresno, Nilon said, has a one-eighth cent sales tax. County support for the libraries has waned in the past months as the county struggled financially, pension increases approved a decade before began to spike costs and other priorities, including an expansion of Lerdo Jail, took priority. Library hours were cut, the number of professional librarians dropped and the system got by with more temporary workers.

Library supporters to gather signatures for sales tax
Source: James Burger, The Bakersfield Californian, December 2, 2015

Supporters of Kern County’s Library Department have launched an effort to put a tax measure on the ballot that would, they hope, revitalize the cash-strapped 24-branch system. If they’re successful, said organizer Miranda Lomeli-O’Reilly, an eight-year, .0125 percent sales tax dedicated to libraries could go before voters in June 2016. The measure would bring in an estimated $15 million a year to fund a library department that is currently limping along on roughly $7 million annually, closing many branches for most of the week and getting by with temporary workers.

As U.S. Libraries Are Outsourced, Readers See Public Trust Erode
Source: James Nash, Bloomberg, November 2, 2015

Library Systems & Services LLC is running into opposition as it seeks to add the 24 libraries in Kern County, California, to its portfolio of 82 in six states, allowing the county to shed a unionized workforce of 118. The county north of Los Angeles would be the largest addition for LSSI… LSSI has added more than 20 in the past five years, but the trajectory hasn’t been constant. San Juan, Texas; Linden, New Jersey; and Fargo, North Dakota, have severed their relationship over complaints about the company’s tacking on costs and paying bills late, according to press accounts. … The county would dismiss the system’s employees. LSSI would eliminate union work rules that “stifle productivity” such as restrictions on part-time clerical workers and consolidate backroom operations, said Bob Windrow, vice president of business development. No library managed by LSSI has a union, he said. The company would rehire librarians at or near their current wages, while replacing pensions with private 401(k) retirement plans, Windrow said. Kern County’s highest-paid nonmanagement librarian made $63,068 in 2013, plus $39,488 in pension and other benefits, according to the state controller. … Of the 82 company-run libraries, 47 are in California. Riko Mendez, political director for the SEIU local representing workers from San Jose to Kern County, said LSSI’s model is to cut salaries and benefits, rely on volunteers and make money by selling library-branded pens and other products.

Library poll shows opposition to privatization
Source: James Burger, The Bakersfield Californian, October 15, 2015

A scientific poll of Kern County residents’ level of satisfaction with the county’s library system shows a high degree of approval of the status quo and narrow opposition to the idea of handing those services over to a private company. The poll was conducted by Price Research, which in August queried 600 randomly chosen county residents by phone. … The poll findings show that 69 percent of the respondents felt very satisfied (25 percent) or somewhat satisfied (44 percent) with the library services they receive. Among frequent library users, 74 percent were satisfied with the libraries. … In fact, 52 percent of respondents said libraries should not be privatized. That number rose to 60 percent among frequent library users. The poll also asked whether respondents would support a one-eighth cent sales tax boost to increase library services. Poll findings indicate that 52 percent of respondents would support the sales tax measure.

Poll: Majority Of Kern County Residents Oppose Library Privatization
Source: Joe Moore, KVPR, October 15, 2015

A new poll shows that a majority of Kern County residents are opposed to the privatization of the county’s public library system. The Board of Supervisors commissioned the poll by Price Research of 600 county residents to gauge overall support for the library system. … According to the poll, while 52 percent of county residents support the possible privatization of some county services, the same percentage opposes privatization for libraries. The poll also asked people if they would support a new ⅛ cent sales tax that would maintain and expand library services, the tax also generated 52 percent in support. Three quarters of respondents report that they or someone in their household used the library system at least a few times in the past year.

BCSD goes on record opposing county option to privatize libraries
Source: Jose Gasper, Eyewitness News, August 26, 2015

The Bakersfield City School District got into the fray over the possibility that the Kern County Board of Supervisors may privatize or outsource the county’s free public library system. … Several members of the public voiced their support of the resolution, which was discussed at Tuesday evening’s school board meeting. Some expressed concern about outsourcing operations to a private company. The resolution read: “…the Bakersfield City School District Board of Education is opposed to any effort by the County Board of Supervisors to privatize or outsource the County’s free public library system; and….(BCSD) is willing to work with the County Board of Supervisors and any citizen groups who are interested in exploring ways to increase funding for the County library system that do not include privatization or outsourcing.”

Libraries offer path to stretch dollars
Source: Steven Greenhut, San Diego Union-Tribune, August 19, 2015

… The latest battleground is Kern County, where declining oil revenues (and other factors) have strapped local budgets. A recent “assessment” report points to some challenges at the Kern library system. Branches are open on average fewer than 30 hours a week. No branch is open on Sunday, or past 7 p.m. during the week — prime times for families to visit libraries. … Typically, private firms continue to employ almost all of the same employees (and at similar pay rates, but with lesser benefits). But according to the Kern County analysis, the library company could find the savings through “variable work hours” and “work rules that allow cross-training and job sharing.” The company might also make current employees “at will” hires, which means they can more easily be fired or reassigned based on their job performance. The company would increase opportunities for volunteers. This approach “encourages creativity and risk taking.” …

Library union illustrates their opposition to privatization
Source: Kern Golden Empire, May 16, 2015

Union members joined in the fight against the possibility of privatizing local libraries with the help of a book. “The Privatization Beast” is a story of a community coming together to support public services. The beast made an appearance Saturday at the Beale Memorial Library. People who frequently use our libraries are opposed outsourcing libraries to a private company. That’s an option as county supervisors look for ways to trim the budget.

Library privatization meeting gets big turnout
Source: Kern Golden Empire, April 14, 2015

Community activists are pushing back against a recent proposal by County Supervisors to privatize county libraries. The turnout for last night’s demonstration at Beale Memorial Library was so large, the meeting had to be moved to a bigger room. Advocates for Library Enhancement talked about the importance of libraries to our communities. They also discussed funding alternatives that would allow the library to remain public including a sales tax increase. They would need 40,000 signatures to get that option on the ballot.

Kern County Considering Privatizing More Services
Source: Jeffery Hess, Valley Public Radio, March 18, 2015

Kern County is now considering turning to private companies to run county services as one way to help cover a big decline in tax revenue…. The board drew strong push back from the public Tuesday when it floated the idea of privatizing its library system. That effort is on hold pending a series of public meetings…. The county board hopes to have meetings about library privatization in each district over coming weeks….

Supervisors delay RFI for privatizing library
Source: Jessica Weston, Daily Independent, March 18, 2015

The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to delay issuing a Request for Information (RFI) until after additional public input could be gathered regarding options for improving the Kern County Library System. The board also asked staff to research the issue further, and indicated a desire to investigate what has worked well in other library systems….

Library supporters concerned about privatization talk
Source: James Burger, Bakersfield Californian, March 7, 2015

A proposal to privatize the Kern County library system that’s been quietly kicked around for months has agency supporters worried services would be cut. The County Administrative Office, looking for ways to save money, plans to bring the idea to the Board of Supervisors for discussion by the end of March….The idea that Kern County might take its 25 libraries and bookmobile operation private has been whispered around the county since supervisors hired Kern County Library Director Nancy Kerr in late October. Kerr previously managed the Valencia Branch Library in the Santa Clarita library system, which was run by Library Systems & Services LLC, a for-profit Maryland company that runs public libraries across the nation….