Monday, November 4, 2013

"Bad system is ruining a civic asset: Jacksonville Public Library System"



Excerpts from the Florida Times-Union Opinion page, Wed, Oct 30, 2013 @ 1:57 pm:
If someone were going to destroy the Jacksonville Public Library system, here is the way to do it.

Don’t make it obvious.
Just allow services to slowly and gradually deteriorate to the point that the library system, once a proud asset of Jacksonville, simply falls apart.
Here is the destruction plan:
LET BUILDINGS GO TO POT....
SLASH THE MATERIALS BUDGE....
PREVENT ATTEMPTS TO MODERNIZE....
DON’T IMPLEMENT PLANS....
NOT A NEW STORY
The story was recited by Library Director Barbara Gubbin during the special study by Jacksonville Community Council Inc. and resulted in a petition drive to put a straw ballot before voters next year....
As Gubbin said in a presentation to a City Council task force on consolidation, the system is severely handicapped by its relationship with city government.
The system is in a “straitjacket,” she said, prevented from being efficient despite the best efforts of the library employees and board.
Under the current dysfunctional relationship, the library is unable to save money for a rainy day. It can’t even keep its revenue from fines.
Though nobody is intentionally killing the library, the patient still is in dire straits, being starved to death of the services that it needs to provide citizens.
Jacksonville Public Library
Jacksonville Public Library - Main Library
Libraries perform probably the most popular services in the city. The local system still is packed with users. That makes its slow death all the more distressing.
BIGGER THAN LIBRARY
This is bigger than library services, however.... The library’s issues are repeated for many others dependent on city central services. What was once a centerpiece of consolidated government has become the worst kind of inept, unresponsive and inefficient bureaucracy.
How bad is it? The library system is not involved as a partner with IT and Public Works to talk about planning and services. There is “no seat at the table.”
Like other users, Gubbin would like the ability to make purchases outside central services.
So make it competitive. Let central services bid against outside vendors. If the outside bid is significantly lower than central services, take the bid and then find out why central services can’t compete....
In the meantime, the library system needs to be able to manage its budget, plan for changes and prepare for the needs of its customers.
In too many cases, that is impossible under the current arrangement.
The library needs its independence to stop the damage and make improvements the citizens deserve.
Yep.
Read the whole piece here .

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