Gladstone explores outsourcing library services in wake of voters rejecting new $10 million library

November 15th, 2012 by Rahul Jain Leave a reply »

Now that Gladstone voters have rejected a measure that would have allowed the city to build a new $10 million library, members of the group that rallied against that measure want the city to explore outsourcing its library services to save money.

Save Gladstone members urged the Gladstone City Council at its meeting Tuesday to look into contracting with Library Systems & Services, a private company that manages libraries across the country. But the question still looms of whether the city will have to return the money it received from the county to build the new library.9880264-large

Gladstone City Administrator Pete Boyce said before the Nov. 6 election that the county had indicated the city will have to return $1.5 million of the $2.5 million in county funds. He said Tuesday, however, that an official decision hasn’t been made and he’s waiting to meet with county officials.

The city definitely won’t recover the $1.19 million it’s spent on plans for what, over the past year, has become a controversial new library. The project was put on the ballot after voters in May passed two finance measures, crafted by Save Gladstone, that stalled the project.

The idea of outsourcing the library was introduced to Boyce recently by Kim Sieckmann, a member of Save Gladstone, and Councilor Thomas Mersereau. According to Library System & Services’ website, it manages 69 library branches and advertises itself as a way to save money while offering improved library services. But the idea raised a lot of questions for Boyce.

He said it’s unclear what control the city would have over library operations if it were to outsource and whether it could still be a part of Clackamas County Library District. The city receives $537,000 each year from the district.

He also found in talking to people who used Library Systems & Services that there were strong viewpoints on both sides of the argument for outsourcing. “Because this is an issue that can become very emotional and is really a great departure from the way we do business, we would have to do a lot of research and get community input on it,” Boyce said.

Some councilors expressed concern over outsourcing after Boyce raised questions about the library district funds, but Sieckmann and others continued to press the city to at least look into it and the council ultimately agreed.

It’s a move that further complicates the city’s effort to fill its vacant library director position, which former director Mary Nixon left in August. Boyce said the city’s lone finalist for the position — 19 applied, but the majority were unqualified and the remaining were deemed a poor fit or pulled their applications, Boyce said — deserved to know if the city was looking into contracting with a private company that would manage the library.

There’s also a sense of urgency to fill the position since Interim Library Director Joanna Rood recently resigned for personal reasons. A staff member in the library has taken over leading day-to-day operations while Boyce helps out with other duties the director is responsible for. Boyce said he’s been trying to find another interim director but has so far been unsuccessful.

The city will bring in the finalist for an interview and to meet with community members, but if the city chooses not to hire her or she doesn’t want the job then the search will start over.



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