Osceola County, Florida Library Partnership “Paying Dividends”

In a recent Around Osceola op-ed, Osceola County, Florida Commission chairman John Quiñones writes, “A bold, ground-breaking partnership with a private company to operate the Osceola Library System passed its 100-day mark Sunday (April 15) and is already leading to reduced costs, a flow of new books and more access for all residents.”

The piece continues:

Osceola County was the first in the state to enter into a relationship with a private company (Library Systems and Services Inc.) to manage the system. For this reason, I believe that funding and the future of the operation of our libraries are secure because of the Board of County Commissioners’ action. Residents need to know that there is plenty of good news about the Osceola Library System.

First, it’s about the books. Orders for materials have been going out regularly for the last eight weeks and shelves are filling up with bestsellers and new releases. More than 4,200 new items have arrived and more than 8,500 books have been ordered.

Next, it’s about the people. The “Hot off the Press” program expands the availability of new books and bestsellers to library patrons, while maintaining the popular hold system.

Denise Galarraga, the new director, has already held meet-and-greets at each library branch. Library amnesty week included a “Fees for Food” program in partnership with the Green Bag Project that helped the community’s children in need.

What about the employees? I’m pleased to say that all of the Osceola Library System employees were offered positions with the new company and the majority accepted those offers. And all of the employees were hired at the same salary they had with the county.

The piece ultimately concludes, “Overall, I am confident that the Osceola Library System will continue its role of serving residents in a progressive and inclusive manner.”

John Quiñones’ op-ed is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding why public-private partnerships are a useful tool for local governments. Not only can they help cash strapped governments keep libraries open, they have proven to be an effective tool for improving the quality of library services too. For more on this issue, see my recent Innovators in Action interview with Osceola County commissioner Frank Attkisson here; and this excerpted section on library partnerships in California from Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report 2011.