Magazine article American Libraries

Jersey City Board Ignores Protests, Votes to Privatize

Magazine article American Libraries

Jersey City Board Ignores Protests, Votes to Privatize

Article excerpt

Despite strong objections from library staff and the city council, the Jersey City (NJ.) Free Public Library System board of trustees voted July 14 to turn over the library's management to Library Systems and Services, Incorporated. The contract "for the management, operation, and maintenance" of the library through June 30, 2001, was not made public prior to the board's meeting.

Although members of the public were only allowed to speak at the beginning of the meeting, before the board brought up the contract, a series of speakers, including several library employees, voiced opposition, the Jersey Journal reported July 15.

The newspaper said that the action was also protested by several members of the city council, which had previously expressed qualms about the plan. "They don't respect the council. This is a disgrace. They will not get a dollar from us as far as I'm concerned," vowed Councilman Arnold Bettinger.

Although he said he is not opposed to privatization, Council President Tom DeGise told the board "a little bit of delay wouldn't kill you," adding that the abrupt move would make library staff feel like LSSI is an "occupying army."

Six members of the council presented a signed letter to the board at the meeting asking it not to award the contract and to halt discussions with LSSI, the Journal reported.

Although he expressed surprise at the council's opposition, Library Board President Ervin Haynes said he saw no reason for further delay, asserting that the contract did not need council's approval.

After the vote, the Journal said, the board made a quick exit without comment, to a chant of "Recall" from the crowd of about 70.

A management review team charged by Mayor Bret Schundler with reforming the system had recommended that the library turn over its management to LSSI following a visit by the team in May to Riverside County, California, where the firm runs the 25-branch library system (see p. 20, this issue). Assistant Director Rose Marie Rudy told American Libraries before the contract vote that the team's report presented various options but recommended privatization of the system's management, automation, and other operations.

Rudy said that the ongoing review process had not only stalled automation plans for the 11-branch system, the second-largest in the state, but had angered library employees, who have been working without a contract for two years. However, in a fax sent to AL in response to an American Libraries Online story, Board President Haynes stated that "the library is on target for its automation timetable."

Union heads and library employees, as well as State Librarian John Livingstone, were among the dozens of speakers at a June 24 city council meeting who urged the council to block the privatization effort. The Journal reported that employees also presented petitions of 8,000 signatures asking that any privatization plan be put to a referendum.

Earlier in the day, union members held an informational picket in front of the system's main library. Employees view the proposal as an attempt at union-busting: Although the city promises to maintain salaries and benefits of current employees, there would be a second payroll of staff hired by LSSI.

Rudy said that the Hudson County freeholders passed a resolution July 9 opposing privatization of the library. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.