US firm ‘can save county’s libraries’

The Oxford Times: Sarah Eddie, left, and Priscilla Goldby handing in petition against the closure of the Headington library at County Hall Sarah Eddie, left, and Priscilla Goldby handing in petition against the closure of the Headington library at County Hall

Threatened libraries across Oxfordshire can be kept running with council cash if they are managed by a private company, an American outsourcing firm said.

Stuart Fitzgerald, vice president of Library Systems & Services UK, said his firm could keep open some or all of the 20 branches and save millions for Oxfordshire County Council.

The authority wants to remove all funding from 20 of its 43 libraries to save £2m over four years.

And the council said discussions with a similar firm had not been “promising”.

It has urged volunteers to run libraries and is setting aside £600,000 for this and other ‘Big Society’ projects.

LSSI, a 30-year-old family-run firm, manages 70 libraries across the US where it has installed self-issue technology, instant print machines, coffee shops and adult education initiatives.

Mr Fitzgerald said the firm would look at cutting staffing and management costs but could not be specific as it had not spoken with the council.

He said: “We would relish the opportunity to have a discussion. Some people perceive the involvement of the private sector means selling off the Crown Jewels. We would not own the libraries, the shelves or the books.

“We would simply manage the staff and service, under a five to 15-year contract.”

Mr Fitzgerald said talks with one South of England council looking to close 40 per cent of branches had led LSSI to propose keeping all open without cutting opening hours.

Only one of England’s 151 local authorities, the London Borough of Hounslow, has contracted out its libraries, to private firm John Laing.

But Mr Fitzgerald predicted up to 12 councils would follow by the end of this year and LSSI is looking to work with authorities including Somerset and Brent on future plans.

County council leader Keith Mitchell said: “We have had discussions with the single UK business with expertise in this area. Having assessed the characteristics of the county and our library network, they concluded they could not offer an outsourced library service that would yield cost savings.”

“I retain an open mind on the concept, but the advice is not promising at this time.”

Headington Library campaigner Sarah Eddie, who handed a 2,374-signature petition to County Hall on Tuesday, said: “It’s definitely someone we would like to meet and talk to. It seems everything has been rushed through at a breakneck pace.

“We would like the opportunity and time to look at other options.”

Meanwhile, Oxford Civic Society urged Mr Mitchell to make cost savings without closing popular branches.

Member Anne Routledge said costs could be reduced by 43 per cent at Summertown Library. She claimed cuts in staffing, new book stock and cleaning bills could cut costs from about £138,014 to £78,286 a year, allowing for inflation.

Mr Mitchell welcomed the analysis but said he was “very sceptical of drawing conclusions for all our network for a single and small piece of work on just one”.

Comments (5)

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1:54pm Mon 31 Jan 11

EBTWO says...

Like churches, libraries have to become a place which is used daily by many different groups - so if that means a coffee shop/corner shop/gym/etc being incorporated, then fine.

Libraries on their own won't pay for themselves, and if the Tories keep selling stuff off, then we're going to lose every facility to the private sector.

This Big Society thing really means "we sell it, get the money, and the local people pay more for the stuff they used to get paid for by tax". It's a SCAM.

Amusingly, my security words are
"pool-loss" - I wonder how long before sports centres are sold off...
Like churches, libraries have to become a place which is used daily by many different groups - so if that means a coffee shop/corner shop/gym/etc being incorporated, then fine. Libraries on their own won't pay for themselves, and if the Tories keep selling stuff off, then we're going to lose every facility to the private sector. This Big Society thing really means "we sell it, get the money, and the local people pay more for the stuff they used to get paid for by tax". It's a SCAM. Amusingly, my security words are "pool-loss" - I wonder how long before sports centres are sold off... EBTWO

2:23pm Mon 31 Jan 11

Shirley Burnham says...

Committing public funds to private firms under contract is a risky business. Private firms are in business for profit, not philanthropy. Hounslow is mentioned in this article. Perhaps that example might raise a red flag ? At the risk of being accused of posting a comment that is too long, I take the liberty of citing the following links. Pay particular attention to the one dated 14th January 2011 which is the actual result of earlier optimism :

Richmond & Twickenham Times : 7th June 2008
Preferred Bidders Named for Leisure
:
Councillor Peter Thompson, leader of Hounslow Council, said: "This council is clear in what it is trying to achieve. People want us to use the local taxes we collect wisely, and to invest their money to improve services, facilities and the quality of life for everyone in this borough. People want good quality parks, leisure centres and libraries, and we will see that they get it."
see :

http://www.richmonda
ndtwickenhamtimes.co
.uk/news/2324999.m5e
c/?from=ec&to=232499
9&l=preferred_bidder
s_named_for_leisure
Next :

Richmond & Twickenham Times : 28th June 2009
£5m Investment to Upgrade Hounslow's Libraries
:

Claire Griffiths, general manager for JLIS, which signed a 15-year contract with the council for 10 services in July 2008, said: "The works improvement programme was originally profiled over a three-year period, but we plan to accelerate the works so they will be completed by the end of 2010, bringing the library improvements and the Hub developments in line with each other. By the end of 2010 the residents of Hounslow will have a network of libraries which will have benefited from major infrastructure improvements, will look and feel more modern and provide a welcoming environment for customers who use the facilities for a range of different services."
see :

http://www.richmonda
ndtwickenhamtimes.co
.uk/news/4461905.__5
m_investment_to_upgr
ade_Hounslow_s_libra
ries/
Next :

Hounslow Chronicle : 14th January 2011
Last Chapter Threat for eight Housnlow Borough Libraries
:

"The council runs a total of 11 libraries across the borough, if all the threatened libraries at closed, residents will be left with just three. Collectively they receive more than 1.75m visits per year.
The council has agreed to consult on library savings up to a value of £870,000. The council consultation ends on January 28."
See :

http://www.hounslowc
hronicle.co.uk/west-
london-news/local-ho
unslow-news/2011/01/
14/last-chapter-thre
at-for-eight-hounslo
w-borough-libraries-
109642-27986569/
Committing public funds to private firms under contract is a risky business. Private firms are in business for profit, not philanthropy. Hounslow is mentioned in this article. Perhaps that example might raise a red flag ? At the risk of being accused of posting a comment that is too long, I take the liberty of citing the following links. Pay particular attention to the one dated 14th January 2011 which is the actual result of earlier optimism : Richmond & Twickenham Times : 7th June 2008 Preferred Bidders Named for Leisure : Councillor Peter Thompson, leader of Hounslow Council, said: "This council is clear in what it is trying to achieve. People want us to use the local taxes we collect wisely, and to invest their money to improve services, facilities and the quality of life for everyone in this borough. People want good quality parks, leisure centres and libraries, and we will see that they get it." see : http://www.richmonda ndtwickenhamtimes.co .uk/news/2324999.m5e c/?from=ec&to=232499 9&l=preferred_bidder s_named_for_leisure Next : Richmond & Twickenham Times : 28th June 2009 £5m Investment to Upgrade Hounslow's Libraries : Claire Griffiths, general manager for JLIS, which signed a 15-year contract with the council for 10 services in July 2008, said: "The works improvement programme was originally profiled over a three-year period, but we plan to accelerate the works so they will be completed by the end of 2010, bringing the library improvements and the Hub developments in line with each other. By the end of 2010 the residents of Hounslow will have a network of libraries which will have benefited from major infrastructure improvements, will look and feel more modern and provide a welcoming environment for customers who use the facilities for a range of different services." see : http://www.richmonda ndtwickenhamtimes.co .uk/news/4461905.__5 m_investment_to_upgr ade_Hounslow_s_libra ries/ Next : Hounslow Chronicle : 14th January 2011 Last Chapter Threat for eight Housnlow Borough Libraries : "The council runs a total of 11 libraries across the borough, if all the threatened libraries at closed, residents will be left with just three. Collectively they receive more than 1.75m visits per year. The council has agreed to consult on library savings up to a value of £870,000. The council consultation ends on January 28." See : http://www.hounslowc hronicle.co.uk/west- london-news/local-ho unslow-news/2011/01/ 14/last-chapter-thre at-for-eight-hounslo w-borough-libraries- 109642-27986569/ Shirley Burnham

1:21pm Tue 1 Feb 11

Niko Bellic says...

EBTWO wrote:
Like churches, libraries have to become a place which is used daily by many different groups - so if that means a coffee shop/corner shop/gym/etc being incorporated, then fine. Libraries on their own won't pay for themselves, and if the Tories keep selling stuff off, then we're going to lose every facility to the private sector. This Big Society thing really means "we sell it, get the money, and the local people pay more for the stuff they used to get paid for by tax". It's a SCAM. Amusingly, my security words are "pool-loss" - I wonder how long before sports centres are sold off...
They have already been put out to be managed by a third party. The council only owns the buildings, Fusion Lifestyle pays everything else!
[quote][p][bold]EBTWO[/bold] wrote: Like churches, libraries have to become a place which is used daily by many different groups - so if that means a coffee shop/corner shop/gym/etc being incorporated, then fine. Libraries on their own won't pay for themselves, and if the Tories keep selling stuff off, then we're going to lose every facility to the private sector. This Big Society thing really means "we sell it, get the money, and the local people pay more for the stuff they used to get paid for by tax". It's a SCAM. Amusingly, my security words are "pool-loss" - I wonder how long before sports centres are sold off...[/p][/quote]They have already been put out to be managed by a third party. The council only owns the buildings, Fusion Lifestyle pays everything else! Niko Bellic

1:23pm Tue 1 Feb 11

Sophia says...

If you included the treu cost of publis setcor pernsions, the share of central overheads and the value of the properties, and if you allwoed for economies of scale and savings from new technology, it is inevitable that outsouring could run services much much cheaper. But Mitchell seemingly is deaf to all ideas from others, As he always has been. Like many accountants, there's a touch of autism in him He doesnt do people, only numbers
If you included the treu cost of publis setcor pernsions, the share of central overheads and the value of the properties, and if you allwoed for economies of scale and savings from new technology, it is inevitable that outsouring could run services much much cheaper. But Mitchell seemingly is deaf to all ideas from others, As he always has been. Like many accountants, there's a touch of autism in him He doesnt do people, only numbers Sophia

12:18pm Tue 8 Feb 11

Alan Wylie says...

LSSI have acquired quite a reputation in the US, see links for more info
http://americanlibra
riesmagazine.org/new
s/02032010/lssi-lose
s-challenge-florida-
rule-mandating-full-
time-directors
http://www.ala.org/a
la/alonline/currentn
ews/newsarchive/2003
/september2003/fargo
publiclibrary.cfm
http://www.nytimes.c
om/2010/09/27/busine
ss/27libraries.html
they are looking to buy up libraries in Somerset also.
If they did get a hold in the UK it would be a disaster for our public libraries.
Alan Wylie
www.thebubblediaries
.blogspot.com
LSSI have acquired quite a reputation in the US, see links for more info http://americanlibra riesmagazine.org/new s/02032010/lssi-lose s-challenge-florida- rule-mandating-full- time-directors http://www.ala.org/a la/alonline/currentn ews/newsarchive/2003 /september2003/fargo publiclibrary.cfm http://www.nytimes.c om/2010/09/27/busine ss/27libraries.html they are looking to buy up libraries in Somerset also. If they did get a hold in the UK it would be a disaster for our public libraries. Alan Wylie www.thebubblediaries .blogspot.com Alan Wylie

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