Huntington Beach City Council looks toward privatizing its library operations

David González Image
Wednesday, March 20, 2024
Huntington Beach considering privatizing its library operations
Even though the city council hasn't reached a final decision, some people are concerned: "They're not taking into consideration the human value that's being jeopardized."

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- The Huntington Beach Library has been a big part of Barbara Richardson's life.

"It is a jewel of our city," she said. "The children love it. We try to encourage kids to come and become lifelong readers, and that has been my goal."

She worked at the library for 32 years until she retired in 2020.

"It means the world to me, and I hired the best of the best when I hired my children's staff. I wanted to leave a long-lasting legacy after I was gone," said Richardson.

She's against the Huntington Beach City Council's 4 to 3 vote on Tuesday to consider having a private company run its libraries.

"It makes me very sad because they're not taking into consideration the human value that's being jeopardized," said Richardson.

Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark said Library Systems and Services, a private company, approached the city about managing its libraries and saving the city money.

"As councilmembers, it is our responsibility to explore those options, and if we can save the taxpayers millions of dollars while still maintaining the level of quality and programming, I think it's our responsibility to look into those options," Van Der Mark said.

The mayor clarified the council's vote is to put out request for proposal, or RFP, to see if other companies can also provide bids to operate the libraries.

"That's all we've done right now," said Van Der Mark. "We haven't made any decision. It may or may not be a good fit for the city. We don't know that, and we won't know that until we go through with the RFP process."

However, some believe the impact of having a for-profit company run the city's libraries will go beyond possible job cuts.

"We're going to end up with a cookie-cutter book collection because that's what they do, the private companies, all the libraries that they own get the same books," said Richardson.

Carol Daus, a board member of Friends of the Huntington Beach Library, a group made up of community members, said they have about 1,000 volunteers.

"Now, when they try to come in here and privatize, that whole group will go," she said.

The mayor said no decision has been made and the council will weigh out the pros and cons of privatization. There is no timeline as to when request for proposals will go out.