By way of The New York Times, we learn that libraries are being privatized. Having lived in more than a few places, and being the kind of guy who uses libraries regularly, I’ve usually been very happy with my local library. I go to the library, I check out books (and videos), I read the books, and I return the books. And it’s free.
Sure, sometimes you have to wait in line, in the worst case for, like, ten whole minutes–but you get free books (mind you, a couple of days ago, I waited that long at a chain book store for the privilege of giving them my money for books). There are some government functions, where I wonder if they could be done more efficiently: the entire fucking
Defense War Department comes to mind. But I’m pretty satisfied with every library system I’ve used. To the extent that I haven’t been, it’s largely due to budget cuts.
So why would a successful, well-liked library system like the one described in The Times article feel the need to privatize? Oh, I see:
“A lot of libraries are atrocious,” Mr. Pezzanite said. “Their policies are all about job security. That’s why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.”
I suppose the beatings will cease once morale improves. Or something. Seriously, what I’ve never understood about the whole “cushy government job” argument is, if these jobs are so great, then apply for them.
Anyway, here’s the real reason why I think local governments are privatizing libraries:
Library employees are often the most resistant to his company, said Mr. Pezzanite, a co-founder of L.S.S.I. — and, he suggested, for reasons that only reinforce the need for a new approach.
“Pensions crushed General Motors, and it is crushing the governments in California,” he said. While the company says it rehires many of the municipal librarians, they must be content with a 401(k) retirement fund and no pension.
Actually, what crushed municipal pensions is the unwillingness of local governments to make the needed contributions (the stock market will yield eleventy gajillion percent returns FOREVAH!), but I digress. Again, if this is such a great deal, people should be beating down the doors for these jobs.
Instead, between the unwillingness of local politicians (and, in fairness, some of the citizens they represent) to be truly fiscally responsible and the neo-liberal belief that the stock market can cure all (ask some 62 year-olds how that’s working for them), the great class war against the middle class rolls on.