I should update a previous blog post on the libraries in Jackson County, Oregon that were closed last April. They're going to reopen now that the county has outsourced them to a for-profit library management company. They'll be open fewer hours (from 40/week to 24), have fewer employees with no union contract and much-smaller salaries - and the books will be chosen, big box style, by corporate headquarters in another state. A friend who lives there tells me they're also counting on volunteers to do a lot of the work; the library friends group she's in has declined to provide free labor to a for-profit venture. Meanwhile, the federal government restored the funding that, when it disappeared, was the reason the libraries were closed down in the first place. But I guess the money's going elsewhere (including into this company's pockets).

A head honcho in this company wrote a truly irritating article for American Libraries some years ago. It had a provocative title that made me think, "interesting idea" - "What if you ran your library like a bookstore." But it turned out he meant like a chain bookstore -- pay lousy wages, order books en masse at a head office instead of responding to local interests, and sell expensive coffee. I guess he took his own advice into the private sector.

Free public libraries were a great idea, and once upon a time they were part of what a community in the US considered a basic public service. I think this stinks.

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Comment by Daniel Hatadi on October 10, 2007 at 3:18pm
I can't believe the arrogance of a company that expects "free labor to a for-profit venture".

Sheesh.

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