ALA affirms that policymaking and management oversight of public libraries should remain securely in the public domain. While outsourcing specific functions and operations of public libraries to an outside vendor or contractor is commonplace, the outsourcing of management to a private entity, or privatization, is controversial. The following resources can assist in navigating this complicated issue.
Keeping Public Libraries Public: A Checklist for Communities Considering Privatization of Public Libraries (PDF)
Questions about the role of government have become the center of national debates, prompting some government officials to search for options to deliver public services. Officials may entertain the notion of privatization because the presumed cost savings and other efficiencies gained are appealing. Experience has shown that privatization of public services has not necessarily produced substantial cost savings.
ALA Policy on Privatization
ALA affirms that publicly funded libraries should remain directly accountable to the public they serve. Therefore, ALA opposes the management oversight of library services from the public to the private for-profit sector.
This special report from ALA Editions provides a succinct but comprehensive overview of the privatization of public libraries. It provides a history of the trend of local and state governments privatizing public services and assets and then examines the history of public library privatization right up to the California legislation introduced earlier this year to restrict cities in the state from privatizing library services. The book also examines what happens when a private, for-profit organization takes over essential management tasks and decisions of a public library, including the effects this can have on services, patron satisfaction, and staff as well as legal issues. It provides in-depth recommendations for librarians who want to retain control of their own institutions. Complete with case studies, statistics, and a valuable checklist of to-dos for libraries that are facing partial or complete privatization.