As local governments face the difficulty of budgeting with reduced revenues, County and State agencies are threatening to take money from city coffers; it’s no surprise that local government is scrutinizing all services offered to their communities. I have really stayed away from the issue surrounding the future control of the Simi Valley Library as it is not a hot button topic for me. However, I was sitting at the city council meeting tonight waiting to speak on the agenda item for City Council Compensation and had to endure a couple hours of comments from the public on the Library issue.
As a person without a a big attachment to the issue, several things became very apparent. Most the people there were spewing misinformation left, right and center. Continually those that supported the County control of the Library kept accusing the city of trying to “Privatize” the Library. The City plan was to take the control of the Library away from the County and contract out to run the Library under the control of the city. The city plan could include contracting with the County to provide the employees, an outside company to provide employees or the city to hire the employees directly. Comments alluded to the City of Simi Valley saving close to 1.2 million dollars annually that could be redirected back into the Library to buy new books and add additional programs.
Proponents of County control argued that a country run program is better in that books can be shared between the various county controlled libraries and that the library system is strong unified under County control. They were also concerned that the a City control library would not be able to properly serve the community, that book selection would be limited, programs would be limited or cut.
One thing that was very clear is all present love the Simi Valley Public Library; the difference was in how it should be managed. I am a local control guy. I think it is obvious with the actions of the Governor last June, that his taking away redevelopment funds away from all California cities for the sate budget is an indicator local control is is not longer and option but a necessity. Imagine if the county ran into funding problems for the county wide library system in the future, who is going to step up to the plate to solve that problem. I believe the City of Simi Valley has been forced into a defensive position to protect and preserve the Public Library and after watching the discussion I have to side with Mayor Huber and the City Council for taking on this issue.