City council to consider library management

Eddie Lagdameo, 4, looks through the shelves as he browses through books at Old Town Newhall Library on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

The Santa Clarita City Council is considering the end of the contract with the private company that’s operated its libraries for the last seven years, according to a City Council agenda.

The move looks to save the city about $400,000 in what would be the city’s first fiscal year of operations, if the council adopts city staff’s recommendation.

The proposal comes nearly seven years after the city pulled the libraries out of the county system and contracted with Library Systems and Services, Inc., or LSSI, to operate and staff libraries in Newhall, Valencia and Canyon Country.

“Providing high-quality library services and facilities has long been our priority,” said Darren Hernandez, deputy city manager and neighborhood services director. “Our libraries are vital and active community hubs. This transition is the next step toward our goal of making the Santa Clarita Public Library one of the best in California.”

City documents noted the city initially had success with LSSI as library hours were expanded and the annual budget for books and materials was increased, but the company’s performance has declined in recent years.

“During the first four years of operation, Santa Clarita Public Library performance improved as measured by key library metrics, and progress was made to achieve desired service quality,“ the City Council agenda report said. “However, over the past two and-a-half fiscal years, service has not met the city’s high expectations.”

Calls to a LSSI spokesperson were not immediately returned. According to LSSI, the city library has 103,000 cardholders and has instituted 5,297 programs.

LSSI also manages libraries in Palmdale, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Camarillo, and Riverside County.

The city would appropriate $175,241 from the city’s public library fund to pay for the transition and fund 31 full-time library jobs: One city librarian; three library administrators; three senior librarians; 13 librarians; 10 library assistants; and one mail clerk. The transition would take effect July 1, seven years to the day of the initial contract with LSSI.

“Compared to the current contracted structure, the City will provide a higher staffing level and a competitive pay and benefits structure to attract and retain talented public library professionals to provide Santa Clarita residents with high-quality public library services,” according to a statement by city officials.

City documents also said a 2012 state law known as the Public Employee Pension Reform Act that reduced pension costs for new public employees allows for the city to afford staffing the library with city employees and save money.

“As a result of PEPRA, it is now cost effective to operate and staff Santa Clarita Public Library with city employees. The net cost estimate to operate Santa Clarita Public Library in-house for fiscal year 2018-19, at the same staffing level as the LSSI contract, is $3,388,409, for estimated first-year savings of $393,931,” the city council agenda report said. “Some of this savings will be reinvested to address service issues. The city’s insourcing estimate includes a competitive pay and benefits structure to attract and retain talented public library professionals to provide Santa Clarita residents with high quality public library services.”

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