Huntsville votes to privatize library after dispute over banned books and pride display
City leaders have declined speaking with the media about these matters but documents said a move to privatize the library was decided in an effort to help save money.
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (KBTX) -The Huntsville City Council voted 6-3 in favor of privatizing and outsourcing its public library operations.
Tuesday’s decision comes after concerns were raised throughout the year about banned books and LGBTQ displays at the Huntsville Public library.
A pride display at the library was removed in August and in October, concerns were raised after a Huntsville police officer was seen behind the checkout desk in what was believed to be an attempt to remove certain books. During this time the City Librarian was also placed on leave.
City leaders, including the city manager and police chief, have declined our multiple requests to discuss these matters in more detail, but documents attached to Tuesday’s city council agenda say a change in operations is needed to improve day-to-day operations at the library and would help reduce costs by $750,000 over a 10-year period.
Dozens of Huntsville residents voiced their concerns during Tuesday’s city council meeting about the outsourcing to Library Systems & Services, LLC, a Maryland-based private for-profit company that manages municipal libraries on an outsourced basis.
”This is a form of censorship that’s going on and that it’s going on behind our backs,” said one resident. “This is a public library. If it’s public, then the public should have a chance to vote on this and we need to get a lot more information.”
“Like many others, we’ve been dealing with a series of issues in our library and some of those other cities have simply resorted to defunding their libraries and closing them,” said another resident. “I don’t think that’s the option that we want to discuss.
Huntsville Ward 1 Councilwoman Daiquiri Beebe released a personal statement in opposition to the privatization of the public library.
“I am not in support of losing our dedicated Huntsville library employees or allowing an outside firm to determine how our beloved, local library is run. I will speak up for that viewpoint tonight at the council meeting,” said Beebe.
Other residents voiced their concerns, not over banned books or displays but about staff and the library’s contents.
“To a genealogist, weeding is a very concerning term because you’re oldest out-of-print books are genealogy’s most valuable resources, they’re irreplaceable and they’re more valuable than recent publications,” said one Walker County resident.
“Many of the employees are long-time staff members who know our community and have served for many years providing programming needs suited to the needs expressed by their patrons,” said one Walker County resident.
Many residents expressed that the move to make the decisions was rushed and would have preferred that it be tabled until a later date but the council declined that option and voted to approve the contract with LS&S services.
Changes at the Huntsville Public Library are expected to take place in January.
City leaders have stated LS&S has expressed interest in retaining current employees and they will have an opportunity to potentially work for them, at the discretion of LS&S. City leaders also say employees will also have an opportunity for employment within the City for which they are qualified.
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