Well, now you can! Fire those librarians, lock the doors, starve your communities of books and information – then hire a for-profit company to run it. That’s what Jackson County, Oregon is doing.
One of the head honchos of the LSSI Corp that got this contract once wrote a truly disturbing article for American Libraries. The title asked an interesting question – “What if You Ran Your Library Like a Bookstore?” I thought of some of the wonderful independent bookstores that could teach us a thing or two – like Once Upon a Crime or Uncle Edgar’s in Minneapolis. But no, turns out he meant “like B&N.” Have all the books selected by a head office somewhere else, get rid of reference assistance because it’s not popular enough, hire low-wage workers, sell expensive coffee. Well, he took his own advice. Now he’s running public libraries like a corporation.
Public libraries in the US have always had a local flavor and have been considered a public good – like public safety and education (not like trash collection and road maintenance, two often-outsourced government functions mentioned in the article). This just stinks.