There ought to be some quantification of how libraries change when LSSI takes over in the summer of 2011. Users have come to expect a certain level of service and a certain depth and breadth of material availability. It's only logical to suspect that changing who runs the libraries will lead to changes in what residents get out of those libraries.
Per usual, City Staff have supplied estimates only for changes that favor withdrawal from the County of Los Angeles Library System: there will be 19% more hours at local branches, and the budget for book purchases will increase by 22% once the County no longer runs the show.
But what about other indicators of library excellence?
*How many MLS (Master of Library Science) holders will work at libraries once LSSI takes over?
*How many materials will users have immediate access to once LSSI takes over?
*How long will it take to obtain a copy of obscure volumes available only via inter-library loan once LSSI takes over?
*What programs will be offered to library visitors once LSSI takes over?
*Will library staff be able to provide the same level of expertise and assistance once LSSI takes over?
These and many other questions were brought up at Tuesday's City Council Meeting, with most speakers fearing that their library-going experience would diminish in quality come July 2011. I think this hypothesis should be tested. For example, one could record how long it takes to receive a copy of The Lyrical Poems of Robert Herrick now and again in August 2011. Similarly, one could compare the wait time for a best-seller now and again in August 2011, or count the number of MLS degree holders now and again in August 2011. It wouldn't be hard, and it would provide some concrete measure of how things change, since the City seems to be unconcerned with demanding specific deliverables from LSSI.
I recognize this is an exercise in futility. It would be next to impossible to unring the bell of withdrawal from the County system, even if LSSI can't match the quality of its service. Still, it's important to know if any major changes have occurred so that those who have made promises may be held accountable and so that something more concrete than an anecdote may be offered in support of/against LSSI's way of doing things.
This is mostly just an idea, but if you'd like to help put libraries to the test so that those interested in City issues may lament/celebrate the change, email me at iheartscv with the usual @ and gmail.com suffix.