Among the rumours and speculation about who might take over the core library services in Suffolk, one name keeps on cropping up — LSSI, an American for-profit library services business.
It already runs libraries in a number of US cities and the latest is Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles. The hiring of Library Systems and Services is now heading for the courts.
Now the company, Library Systems & Services, has been hired for the first time to run a system in a relatively healthy city, setting off an intense and often acrimonious debate about the role of outsourcing in a ravaged economy.
Save Santa Clarita Libraries has much more.
Throughout the United States, LSSI is hugely controversial. In 2004 the Linden Free Public Library in New Jersey, ended its second two year contract early. It found that it would save $300,000 by doing this.
There were also problems about late payment of bills by LSSI at Linden which was also given as a reason for Fargo in North Dakota cancelling a contract.
In Hernando County, Florida, a proposed deal with LSSI was dropped after protests by citizens.
There is no doubt that LSSI can reduce costs, particularly where modern technology has not been adopted. This is the not the casein Suffolk.
Another way is by forcing down labour costs. This is possible in Suffolk. In January at Winston, I heard county council chief executive Andrea Hill say one of her tasks was to transfer staff to other organisations without them taking the council terms and conditions of employment with them.
LSSI also talks about bringing Starbucks into libraries. I don’t object to the principle of that but would prefer Cafe Nero.
has set itself a target to manage libraries in eight British local authorities by the end of the year and to capture 15 per cent of the market within five years. Libraries could house coffee shops and bring in self-scanning technology.
In Oxfordshire, campaigners for libraries, are protesting at talks with LSSI.