You are on page 1of 9

525 W.

Superior, #225, Chicago, Illinois 60654


Wednesday July 7th 2010

San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors


44 N. San Joaquin Street # 627
STOCKTON, CA 95202

Dear Sirs

I am the University Librarian Emeritus of the California State University,

Fresno, and a past president of the American Library Association (I attach my

resume). I have reviewed the Request for Proposal (RFP #09-40) and am writing

to express my opposition to San Joaquin County’s proposal to privatize the library

services of the County and/or the City of Stockton. I would emphasize that,

though I am writing this letter to support the Friends of the Stockton Public

Library and Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton, citizen groups opposed to

the privatization of library services, I am doing so out of my own convictions and

opinions and have neither sought nor been given remuneration for writing to you.

My opposition is based on my views on three ways of looking at the

privatization question—economic, professional, and the ethics of public service.

Economics. Public libraries are a service for all and of benefit to all but there is no

escaping the fact that those who depend most heavily on library services are those

with little or no economic means—these include children and young adults, the

financially disadvantaged, the disabled, the house bound, the unemployed, and

those on the wrong side of the “digital divide,” i.e., those who cannot afford
private access to the internet and the world wide web. This last is a very important

point as studies have shown that public libraries are doing more than any other

institution in the US to bridge the “digital divide.” To put it bluntly, there is no

money to be made by a private company from such a “customer base.” Library

service to these parts of the community is the responsibility of the community and

it makes no economic sense to have that service run by a private, “for profit”

company whose legal duty is to maximize the returns to its shareholders.

Given that a “for profit” company cannot both make profits for its

shareholders and supply full library service, particularly to the disadvantaged, it

stands to reason that such profits can only be made by cutting staff, cutting

materials expenditures, cutting library hours, reducing access to the internet and

the web, charging fees for currently free services, and/or increasing fees or fines.

While the contractor’s proposal was not available for review at the time of

this writing, I understand from the sample contract in the RFP that the County is

willing to pay one-twelfth (or approximately 8.3%) of library budgets as fees or

other payments to the company running a privatized library service. Since the

budgets of all California public libraries have been sharply reduced in real terms in

the past years, the amount of money for library services and materials will be only

91.7% of those reduced budgets. It is not clear whether, under this payment

scenario, the company will have any incentive to increase revenues by charging for

currently free services or to cut costs by decreasing services to make the profit that
2
running a company demands. In any event, payment of 8.3% of the library budget

to a private company for public services under current reduced budgets makes no

sense economically for the community or for the company. Furthermore, as

explained in the following section, because a private company lacks accountability

to the public, there is no way for the public or decision-makers to evaluate whether

the company is more “efficient” than City employees at providing library services.

What is clear is that a private company is in no way beholden to those who use the

library system, and therefore has no incentive to provide top quality library

services.

Accountability. Privatization of public services inevitably leads to less accountability

to the public. A private company accountable to its shareholders is given access

to tax dollars without, by definition, the accountability and transparency in how

they use those dollars that are expected of public employees and public bodies. As

a result, the public are unable to monitor their expenditures, budget priorities, etc.,

or gain the full information required by the California Public Records Act.

Professional library service. A colleague of mine has written: “The public library is the only

place in America where you can walk in off the street and get advice from someone with an

advanced degree without paying for it.” Adequate library service to all members of the

community can only be assured if the library has a staff with an appropriate

number of qualified librarians—those with a MLS (or equivalent) from an ALA-

accredited masters’ program. Since qualified librarians earn larger salaries (if by no
3
means large salaries) than other library workers, reducing the number of librarians

is a very tempting possibility for a “for profit” company bent on “stream-lining”

and knowing the cost, if not the value, of professional library service. A library is

much more than a building with collections of books and other materials and

computer terminals. It only becomes a library service when qualified librarians are

available to assist in the use of those collections for research, study, and leisure

purposes (including helping and advising in the use of digital resources) and to

apply their expertise in the selection of library materials. The logic of the situation

dictates that privatizing libraries will decrease the amount of professional service to

the community.

The ethics of library privatization. Privatization of library services makes no sense from

the economic or professional points of view. I believe the reasons for that lack of

coherence lie in the clash of outlook and purpose between those who render

public service with a commitment to the common good and those who offer to

provide such services in order to make a profit for shareholders. These two

groups have incompatible motivations and diametrically opposed bottom lines—

for the first, the bottom line is the betterment of communities, the advancement of

literacy and learning, and using expertise to improve people’s lives; for the second,

the bottom line is profit and loss. These two world views are antithetical and any

attempt to marry them is bound to end badly when the community lacks the

4
services they need and when the privatizing company fails to profit from what

cannot, in the long run, be a profitable business.

I urge you to abandon this privatization initiative and work with the library

staff and the community to give your citizens the best public library service that

you can in these difficult economic times.

I stand ready to expand on these views or to provide you with any

information that I can.

Sincerely yours,

Michael Gorman

Michael Gorman

5
Michael Gorman
University Librarian Emeritus
California State University, Fresno

Professional Positions Held:


Dean of Library Services, California State University, Fresno, 1988-2007

Director of General Services


University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, Library, 1981-1988

Acting University Librarian


University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, Library, 1986-1987

Director of Technical Services


University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, Library, 1977-1981

Head of the Office of Bibliographic Standards, British Library, 1973-1977

Member of the British Library Planning Secretariat, 1971-1973

Head of Cataloguing, British National Bibliography, 1969-1971

Cataloguer, British National Bibliography, 1967-1969

Research Assistant, North-Western Polytechnic & BNB, 1966-1967

Professional Education:
Ealing College (now Thames Valley University) School of Librarianship, London, 1964-
1966
Elected FLA (Fellow of the [British] Library Association) , 1979

Offices Held:

Inaugurated as president at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago in June 2005.


President, American Library Association Library and Information Technology Association,
(1999-2000)

Member of the American Library Association's Council,


(1991-1995, 2002-2006)

Member of the American Library Association's Executive Board,


(2003-2006)

Member of a number of ALA, LITA, ALCTS, and California LA committees


Honors:
Haycock Award for contributing significantly to the public recognition and appreciation of
librarianship through professional performance, teaching and/or writing, 2010, presented by
the American Library Association.

Honorary Doctorate, University of the Thames Valley, 2007

Honorary Fellow, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, 2005

Highsmith Award 2001 for Our enduring values presented by American Library Association

1997 Blackwell's Scholarship Award presented by ALCTS, for Future libraries: dreams, madness,
and reality by Walt Crawford and Michael Gorman

Melvil Dewey Medal, American Library Association, 1992

Margaret Mann Citation in Cataloguing and Classification, 1979, presented by the American
Library Association, Resources and Technical Services Division

Selected Scholarly Activity:


Books and Monographs:
“The true history of AACR2, 1968-1988: a personal memoir.” In Commemorating the past,
celebrating the present, creating the future. Chicago: ALA, 2007. pp. 60-74

The concise AACR2. 4th ed. Chicago: ALA, 2005 (translated into a number of languages,
including, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, and Vietnamese)

Our own selves: more meditations for librarians. Chicago: ALA, 2005

The enduring library: technology, tradition, and the quest for balance. Chicago: ALA, 2003

Our enduring values: librarianship in the 21st century. Chicago: ALA, 2000 (translated into Italian,
Serbo-Croatian)

"Seymour Lubetzky: man of principles." In The future of cataloguing: insights from the Lubetzky
Symposium. Chicago: ALA, 2000. pp. 12-21

The concise AACR2. 3rd ed. Editor. Chicago: ALA, 1999

Library trends. Human response to library technology, edited by Janice L. Kirkland and Michael
Gorman, University of Illinois, Graduate School of Library and Information Science. v.47,
no. 4 (Spring 1999)

Technical services today and tomorrow, 2nd edition, Littleton, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1998

Our singular strengths: meditations for librarians. Chicago: ALA, 1997


Future libraries: dreams, madness, and reality. Walt Crawford and Michael Gorman. Chicago:
ALA, 1995

Anglo-American cataloguing rules. 2nd ed. Revised. Editor. Chicago: ALA, 1988

Anglo-American cataloguing rules. 2nd ed. Editor. Chicago: ALA, 1978

Selected Articles:
RDA: imminent debacle. American libraries, v. 38, issue 11, pp. 64-65.
“Metadata dreaming: keynote speech at the Canadian Metadata Forum. Serials librarian
(2006) v.61, issue 2, pp. 47-52.
"The literature of the book: libraries and librarianship." LOGOS, v. 15,
issue 3, (2004), pp. 137-141.
“Authority control in the context of bibliographic control in the electronic environment.”
Cataloging and classification quarterly (2004) v. 38, issues 3&4, pp. 11-22.
"Whither library education?" New library world, v. 105, nos. 1204/5, pp.
376-380.
"Google and God's mind." Los Angeles times, Dec. 17, 2004.
"Revenge of the Blog People." Library journal, February 15th , 2005.
Book review of Matthew Battle. Library: an unquiet history, LOGOS, v. 15,
issue 4 (2004), pp. 221-222.
"Human values in a technological age: a librarian looks 100 years forward and backward,"
LOGOS, v.12, n.2, Quarterly 2001.
"Faculty status? A definite maybe," California libraries, June 2001.
"Technostress and library values," Library journal, April 15, 2001.
"The value and values of libraries." Bodleian Library record, v XII, no.6 (October 2002), pp.
449-463
“Why teach cataloguing and classification?” Cataloging & classification quarterly, v.34, nos. 1/2,
pp. 1-13.
"A love affair that has lasted fifty-five years." LOGOS: the journal of the world book community,
v.13, issue 2 (2002), pp. 88-89.
"Do librarians with tenure get more respect?" Mark Y. Herring and Michael Gorman.
American libraries, June/July 2003. pp. 70-72.
“The people of the book?” California libraries (July 2002), pp. 6-7.
“The library shall endure: a conversation with Michael Gorman.” The book and the computer
(e.journal) www.honco.net/os/gorman.html February 2003.

Selected Papers Presented:


“The value of education for national development” and “Union catalogues: their role in
library networks and their continuing relevance in an electronic age.” National Library of
Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica, November 2007

“The future of cataloguing.” American Association of Law Libraries Annual Conference,


New Orleans, July 2007.
“The wrong path and the right path: the role of libraries in access to, and preservation of,
cultural heritage.” Keynote speech at the Conference on Globalization, Digitization, Access,
and Preservation of Cultural Heritage” Sofia, Bulgaria, November 2006.
“Library advocacy.” 52nd National Conference of the Associazione italiana biblioteche
(AIB)”Le politiche delle biblioteche in Italia. I servizi” Rome, San Michele di Ripa Grande,
November 2005.
“Paratextual elements in bibliographic description.” Convegno paratesto (Conference on
Paratext), Rome and Bologna, November - December 2004
“Whither library education?” Keynote speech at joint EUCLID/ALISE conference,
Potsdam, Germany, July 31st, 2003.

“Collection development in interesting times.” Acquisitions Institute, Timberline Lodge,


Portland, OR, May 18th, 2003.

“The 21st century library.” Cleveland Area Metropolitan Library System, Cleveland, OH,
June 24th, 2003.

“Cataloguing today.” Montana Library Association, Butte MT, April 24th, 2003.

"The value and values of libraries," 68th IFLA General Conference and Council, Glasgow,
Scotland, August 2002.

"Values for future libraries," Mexican Library Association, Monterrey, Mexico, June 2002.

"Our enduring values: librarianship in the 21st century," and "Metadata: old and new story,"
British Columbia Library Association Conference, Vancouver, Canada, May 2002.

Teaching:
Courses taught at: Dominican University, University of California Los Angeles, University of
California Berkeley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Chicago,
North-Western Polytechnic (London)

Michael Gorman