City to operate libraries starting July 1 with 30 new positions

A woman walks into the Newhall library on Wedesday, August 30, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The city of Santa Clarita is set to take back full control of its library system July 1 with 30 new positions being filed.

The city currently contracts with Library Systems & Services, Inc., which has a mix of 54 full-time and part-time positions throughout its three libraries in Newhall, Valencia and Canyon Country, according to Deputy City Manager Darren Hernandez.

Santa Clarita City Council members voted in January to end their contract with LSSI and independently operate and staff the Santa Clarita Public Library system.

Now, there will be 30 new full-time library positions with applicants still being considered for rehiring. The positions will be one city librarian, three library administrators, three senior librarians, 13 librarians and 10 library assistants.

There will also be 28 full-time equivalent positions, which will be filled by a mix of part-time employees, said city spokeswoman Carrie Lujan.

LSSI did not return a request for comment regarding the breakdown of its staffing of the city’s libraries, making unclear if the city’s takeover will be adding or reducing the number of persons being hired.

Out of the four top-ranking positions at the library, which are city librarian and the three administrators, three former LSSI employees were brought back, Lujan said.

Current employees are still undergoing the hiring process. New applicants are also being considered.

“Individuals currently staffing SCPL will be given full consideration in the city’s recruitment, as will any applicants meeting the minimum qualifications for the positions,” the agenda report from the January 9 council meeting said.

The process for hiring new city staff for the positions was “open and competitive” to see who would best serve the community, Hernandez said.

“Our top priority is to hire employees that have the right combination of education and experience to provide our Santa Clarita residents with the high level of service they expect and deserve,” he said. “We appreciate the service that LSSI employees have given to our libraries,” Hernandez said. “This is why we interviewed all of the LSSI staff that applied and gave them a fair opportunity to present and represent themselves.”

It is currently unknown how many of the old library hires will be rehired.

“All of the current library staff are employed by LSSI and they operate 41 other libraries in Southern California,” Hernandez said. “Hopefully LSSI will work to redeploy staff we do not hire to their other 41 libraries.”

Representatives from LSSI could not be reached for comment or clarification of the numbers. It is unknown if they have helped current librarians find jobs.

A City Council agenda report said the net cost estimate to operate the library in-house at the same staffing level as the LSSI contract, is $3,388,409, for estimated first-year savings of $393,931.

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

The city would appropriate $175,241 from the city’s public library fund to pay for the transition.

The city’s libraries have 103,000 cardholders and have instituted 5,297 programs as of January 2018, according to LSSI information available online.
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, city documents noted.

“As library patrons you will not notice any drastic visual changes,” Hernandez said. “However, behind-the-scenes operations will be more effective and you’ll soon notice improvements in the quality of our services and resources including an increase in the library collection and circulation and an improved quality of book selection. This is because the transition to an in-house operation will result in more control over the purchasing of books and circulation, and library staff will be city staff who will work to uphold the city’s philosophy statement of providing excellent customer service with a humanistic approach.”

The switch comes nearly seven years after the city pulled its three libraries out of the county system to contract privately with LSSI in 2011.

LSSI COO Todd Frager said in January that his company was disappointed the city decided not to renew the contract, but was ultimately supportive of the city.

“They’re just not renewing a contract for convenience, so that’s the way they’re leaving the contract,” he said after the City Council meeting in January. “It’s been a great seven years. We feel very good, very positive about the services we provided and the quality of our staff and our relationship with the city. Certainly, we wish we could have continued the relationship. We always knew it might be an eventual outcome that at some point the city would want to take ownership back in-house of their system.”

Frager said he anticipated the switch over would be uneventful.

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