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Oceanside Public Libraries Not Up For Bid

Aired 3/16/12 on KPBS News.

The city of Oceanside has narrowly avoided a putting its library system out to bid. What saved the public libraries from privatization was the number of library volunteers.

Oceanside's main library, photographed in March 2011.
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Above: Oceanside's main library, photographed in March 2011.

The city of Oceanside is looking for ways to close a $2 million budget gap, and privatizing its libraries was one option on the table.

A private company in Maryland said it could save the city about $400,000 a year to run the libraries.

But Councilman Jack Feller, who cast the deciding vote to reject the plan, said library volunteers save the city more.

“I evaluated the number of volunteer hours and the money that that saves the city, which is over half a million dollars," he said. "I don’t know many people that would volunteer to help make a business profit."

Councilmembers Jerry Kern and Garry Felien supported outsourcing the libraries, while Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez opposed it.

The private company, Library Systems and Services, has been running the libraries for Riverside County since the 1990s. Santa Clarita Public Library contracted with the company last year. The "Friends of the Library" group of volunteers disbanded before the company took over.

No other city in San Diego County has privatized its public library system.

Oceanside is also considering developing its civic golf course to help generate revenue. That option would need a public vote before going forward.

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