Should a US company run Britain's libraries?

A US library operator says it can could cut the cost of running Britain's libraries by 35 percent.

Courtesy of Jonathan Goldberg/MLA
In this file photo, patrons of Hendon library in Sunderland, England, read newspapers. Britain is struggling to keep its public libraries open, and an American company wants to step in.

The Sunday Times (£) contained an interesting article concerning the ongoing debate about library closures. Library Systems & Services (LSSI), America’s fifth-largest operator of public libraries, says they can take over British libraries and cut costs by 35 percent, while also improving the service they provide. Here’s why:

Analysis by The Sunday Times of every library authority in England, Wales and Scotland shows widespread waste and variations in how public money is spent. On average, a third of the money councils say they spend on library services actually goes on administration. Some use more than half their allocated funds for head-office costs.

The article also notes, “LSSI spends up to 25% of its budget on books, compared with the 2.7% of Somerset county council.”

So, is anyone surprised that profit-making private sector companies cost less and produce more than bloated public sector bureaucracies? You have to wonder sometimes why the government is still attempting to run anything itself.

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