How Public Space is Being Privatized by the 1%

privatization-beast-attacks-library-590.jpgThe Occupy movement has taught us a lot about the role of public spaces. In short, they are under attack. We saw this with the raiding of the Occupy LA encampment and also see this with the privatization of our public libraries.

Cities argue that they will have more local control and be able to do some smart cost savings by handing the library keys to a private company, but that is not the real end result over time. Instead, the "public" is taken out of Public Library and we end up with libraries that are run by a for-profit company with for-profit interests. The main goal of that corporation is to increase shareholder wealth, not to delight library patrons.



Because there is only one turnkey library system management company in the United States, Maryland-based LSSI, which is owned by a Massachussetts-based private equity firm, we can track patterns. LSSI promises cost savings and control, telling cities they will no longer be under the authoritative hammer of larger county library systems.

Cities that rush to privatize largely bypass community involvement. We saw this in the cities of Camarillo and Santa Clarita. Simi Valley has recently taken this "no community" path toward library privatization.

The pattern also includes slashing benefits for library workers, blurring lines between trained professionals and volunteers, and hiding behind the corporate veil when there are any hard community questions.

The City of Simi Valley's move to privatize is still not a done deal. There will be another Public Hearing on Dec. 12, 2011 at the Simi Valley City Council Chambers at 6:30pm. Please contact me (jesse.luna@seiu721.org) if you would like to get involved and fight the privatization beast that's eating up public libraries.

For a more animated view of how library privatization harms communities, check out this great video created by Arts for Action. It already has over 300K views. Visit privatizationbeast.org for more information.

--Jesse Luna
SEIU 721 Communications Specialist

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