Recommendation on Privatization of Publicly Funded Libraries


EBD #5.1 – Revised
2000–2001

TO: ALA Council
FROM: ALA Executive Board
DATE: June 18, 2001
SUBJ: Recommendation on Privatization of Publicly Funded Libraries

1) Introduction and Background : At the 2001 midwinter conference of the American Library Association, Liz Bishoff and Sally Reed brought forward a proposal to establish one common working definition of “privatization” as it relates to publicly funded libraries, and a recommendation to generate an association-wide dialogue on the issue of privatization with the goal of bringing back a proposal for ALA to take a stand opposing the shifting of policy making and management of library services from the public to the private sector. See attachment.

In the ensuing time period, various units and divisions of ALA have engaged in this discussion including, but not limited to, PLA, REFORMA, IFC, APALA, AFAS, BCALA, ACRL, and FLRT.

Findings : The feedback ranged from a few members who expressed belief that privatization is a reasonable alternative for service delivery, to those who feel ALA should also oppose the outsourcing of key functions and all library staff. The majority of responses, however, indicated support for opposing the privatization of management and policy-making in publicly funded libraries.

Based on the work done to date on the issue of outsourcing and privatization by various units and task forces of the Association; and based on the feedback that we have received over the past six months, the Executive Board believes that there is general consensus that:

  • It is difficult or impossible to define “core services” for any single library.
  • There is strong support for the notion that “libraries are an essential public good” and that responsibility for policy making and implementation of policy should not be shifted to the private sector in publicly funded libraries.

Therefore, we propose the following:

Recommendation : That ALA adopt the following policy: “ALA affirms that publicly funded libraries should remain directly accountable to the publics they serve. Therefore, the American Library Association opposes the shifting of policy development and management oversight of library services from the public to the private, for-profit, sector.”

At the 2001 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco, ALA Council adopted a policy statement concerning privatization.

“ALA affirms that publicly funded libraries should remain directly accountable to the publics they serve. Therefore, the American Library Association opposes the shifting of policy making and management oversight of library services from the public to the private for-profit sector.”