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Residents question library committee

Posted: January 21, 2011 9:32 p.m.
Updated: January 22, 2011 4:30 a.m.

Residents have raised concerns over the city of Santa Clarita’s library advisory committee, adding to a flurry of criticisms already lobbed at the city over creating a city-run library system.

Formed as a way for the community to help form a local library system, the Citizens Library Advisory Committee, made up of 37 community stakeholders and interested residents, is guided by a representative from the city’s contracted library operator, Library Systems & Services LLC, or LSSI.

The Santa Clarita City Council voted in August 2010 to withdraw from the Los Angeles County Public Library system and operate the three libraries within city limits, Newhall, Valencia and Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy libraries. The city-run library system will start July 1.

The two meetings the group has held so far have raised questions about the flow of information to the committee and about the committee’s purpose, adding to the multiple questions asked already about why Santa Clarita is taking on library operations in the first place.

Some meeting attendees say LSSI and the city lack specifics on the new library system’s role in the community; others criticize miscommunication between the city, LSSI and the committee; still others question whether the city values members’ input.

“There’s a formula for a specific plan, and I think that most of us on the committee knew what that was, but I think a lot of us thought the questions we had would be answered,” committee member Cheryl Phillips said.

Santa Clarita resident Lori Rivas attended both committee meetings.

Rivas, who applied, but was not selected to be on the committee, said the 90-minute meetings were “prescribed,” and that the majority of the meetings’ time has been spent following exercises from a book published by the American
Library Association, “Planning for Results.”

This leaves about 30 minutes for committee members to add their input.

There’s no time during the official meeting for community members outside of the committee to contribute, Rivas said.

So far, the meetings have focused more on general goals for the community without specifically discussing the new library system, another point of contention for some committee members and attendees.

Mark Smith, vice president of west coast operations for LSSI and co-leader of the meetings, said that committee members typically feel confused and frustrated at this point in the transition process.

“It’s a process I’ve participated in before,” Smith said, citing his experience during LSSI-administered transitions from county to city-run libraries in Shasta County and Jackson County, Ore.

“It will become clearer as they move along how the two parts that they’ve done so far relate,” he added.

Smith said that LSSI’s emphasis on the community as a whole during the first two meetings was meant to help plan a new library system that meets Santa Clarita Valley’s specific needs.

Miscommunication between the city, LSSI and the advisory committee has drawn criticism from some community members who say they didn’t receive promised background information from LSSI before the second meeting on Jan. 10.

However, Phillips noted that communication has already begun to improve, and that after the second meeting, the city e-mailed committee members several informational documents to help them prepare for upcoming meetings.

The committee will meet again Feb. 10.



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