View Mobile Site
 

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos

 

Tale of two libraries

City: Two nearby cities have seceded from their county library systems with few ill results

Posted: August 23, 2010 9:32 p.m.
Updated: August 24, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Librarian Marcy Bowen helps Hamideh Golestaneh and her 12-year-old son Shayan Zianour at the Calabasas Library on Thursday afternoon. The Santa Clarita City Council is expected tonight to approve seceding from the Los Angeles County Library System and entering into a contract with a private library management firm to run the city’s three libraries. Librarian Marcy Bowen helps Hamideh Golestaneh and her 12-year-old son Shayan Zianour at the Calabasas Library on Thursday afternoon. The Santa Clarita City Council is expected tonight to approve seceding from the Los Angeles County Library System and entering into a contract with a private library management firm to run the city’s three libraries.
Librarian Marcy Bowen helps Hamideh Golestaneh and her 12-year-old son Shayan Zianour at the Calabasas Library on Thursday afternoon. The Santa Clarita City Council is expected tonight to approve seceding from the Los Angeles County Library System and entering into a contract with a private library management firm to run the city’s three libraries.
Eighteen-year-old Brandon Faber reads about computers at the Calabasas Library on Thursday. Eighteen-year-old Brandon Faber reads about computers at the Calabasas Library on Thursday.
Eighteen-year-old Brandon Faber reads about computers at the Calabasas Library on Thursday.
Library Technical Services Coordinator Suchandra Ghosh, helps a customer checkout books at the Calabasas City Library on Thursday afternoon. Library Technical Services Coordinator Suchandra Ghosh, helps a customer checkout books at the Calabasas City Library on Thursday afternoon.
Library Technical Services Coordinator Suchandra Ghosh, helps a customer checkout books at the Calabasas City Library on Thursday afternoon.
A A A

For months, critics of the city’s proposal to take over library operations from the county have voiced concerns over possible hidden costs, fewer programs and less-qualified staff.

The Santa Clarita City Council is expected tonight to approve seceding from the Los Angeles County library system and entering into a contract with a private library management firm to run the city’s three libraries. The move doesn’t require county approval.

But few of those concerns came to pass in Calabasas or Moorpark, a tour of their libraries and interviews with officials and patrons recently revealed.

The situations aren’t completely analogous to Santa Clarita — both cities are smaller, each with just a little more than 20,000 residents, and the each have had just one library since they incorporated more than 20 years ago.

While Calabasas is part of Los Angeles County, Moorpark is in Ventura County.

But like Santa Clarita, they’ve eyed property tax revenues lost to their counties and thought they could do better.
Calabasas seceded from the Los Angeles County library system in 1998. Moorpark seceded from the Ventura County Library system in 2007.

Calabasas administrator Robin Parker said the city library is “the biggest success story we have.”

Access
Both city library systems allow any Californian to become a member, and neither charge members to request books through an inter-library loan process available through a cooperative.

Deputy City Manager Darren Hernandez said the council won’t make decisions on particulars such as these until later.

Local critics worry that the city won’t have access to as many books as the county system, and any books ordered from outside the city’s three libraries won’t be available as quickly as they are through the county.

Calabasas and Moorpark are members of the Southern California Library Cooperative. So is the County of Los Angeles Public Library.

Both cities have access to the county’s massive 7-million-item collection as well as several other library systems’ collections.

Calabasas is a member of a second co-op, called the Online Computer Library Center. Its members have access to 135 million records worldwide.

But it does take them far longer to get books from outside libraries. The county’s reaction time when patrons order a book from outside their home library is a day or two. But interlibrary loans take at least 10 days, Parker said.

Cost
Longtime Calabasas Library Commissioner Ellen Pangarliotas urged the Calabasas City Council for two years to take on library operations. The city was underserved with a small 1,400-square-foot storefront library to serve residents, Pangarliotas said.

Two years ago, the city opened the Calabasas Library, a 25,000-square-foot Spanish-style building that was partially paid for using savings that would have otherwise gone straight to the county system. Moorpark has similar plans for its library.

Moorpark contracts with LSSI, or Library Systems & Services, Inc., a private for-profit library management firm. Calabasas contracted with LSSI for nine years.

Pangarliotas and Parker said they were happy with LSSI. Calabasas started its own library division within the city in 2008. The city saved $68,000 by bringing services in-house, Parker said.

“We’re just a city that likes to have things in-house,” Parker said. “Decisions can be made quicker. ... With contract staff, I can’t direct them, basically. I had to go through a senior administrator with LSSI, who’s not here full-time. We just wanted more local control.”

For the most part, the city kept LSSI’s staff members.

“They were very experienced,” she said. “That’s why we kept them.”

Services
City officials offer glowing reviews of their libraries, as do patrons.

Pangarliotas rattled off a slew of services available to Calabasas’ 31,000 card holders, from a juggling show to storytimes for children with Asperger’s syndrome to Paws For Reading, in which children read to dogs to become comfortable reading aloud.

“Can you tell I love the library?” Pangarliotas asked with a laugh.

And in Moorpark, where the city library is still crammed into a small building, everything from foot traffic to programs offered has grown. Patrons spoke fondly of the staff.

Donna Travis, a mother of two, said she has noticed a personal touch that didn’t exist before.

“The staff is helpful,” she said. “They’ve really tried to keep up more on the trends, with current films and books.”

The number of events at Moorpark doubled from 58 in 2007 to 120 in 2009. And the number of attendees grew exponentially, with 1,635 in 2007 to 5,480 in 2009, Moorpark Senior Management analyst Jennifer Mellon said.

Still, Marilyn Ludwig, a frequent library patron and former Moorpark Friends of the Library board member, said she preferred being part of the Ventura County Library system.

“I liked being a part of it,” she said. “I thought it was efficient. We could network with other libraries. I thought that was good.”

Ludwig said, however, the changes weren’t earth-shattering.

“As far as I can tell, things are running smoothly.”

Comments

Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.

 
 

Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...