Simi Library contract renewed

June 04, 2022

A new contract covering the day-to-day operations of the Simi Valley Public Library is now on the books.

The City Council on May 16 voted 5-0 in favor of extending a contract with Library Systems and Services LLC to continue operating the library at a cost of $8.6 million for five years.

The council also agreed to a pair of two-year extension options with LS&S, a Maryland-based firm that provides services for libraries nationwide, including the Moorpark and Camarillo public libraries.

The city has been contracting with LS&S since July 2013 when the council opted to withdraw from the Ventura County Free Library System in an effort to improve the quality of the library and run it more efficiently and cost-effectively in the face of declining revenues and resources.

The city’s original five-year contract with LS&S also included the option of two additional two-year extensions. The city elected to exercise both options, and the second option is set to expire June 30.

The new five-year contract will start July 1 and run through June 30, 2027.

Anna Medina, the city’s deputy community services director, said the new contract calls for the addition of an assistant library director and an increase in weekly service hours, which will rise from 55 hours per week to 58 hours per week.

Kelly Tinker, the city’s economic development management analyst, said in the first year of the new contract the library’s total operating expenses would increase by 6%. In years two through five, the budget would increase by 3%.

Tinker said that since the library’s transition from the county library system to LS&S, the community has enjoyed a wide variety of services and programming, and access to a robust and relevant collection of print books, digital content and other media formats in both English and Spanish.

He also said library staff has continued to emphasize use of the facility as a safe, comfortable community gathering space, one that provides opportunities for professional collaboration, recreation, civic engagement and learning for all ages and demographics.

“LS&S has served as an active partner with the city, working to enhance public service and usher the Simi Valley Public Library into the future of library services,” Tinker said.

The library’s current 26-person staff is equivalent to 17 fulltime employees.

Based on annual year-end reporting since 2013, a total of 2,349,983 physical items have been borrowed from the library, along with 158,315 electronic items. More than 67,000 electronic items were borrowed in 2020-21, compared to only 50 electronic items borrowed in 2013-14. More than 70,000 physical items have also been added to the library’s collection since 2013.

LS&S has begun to draft a five-year strategic plan for the library that prioritizes community building, connecting and increasing services, enhancing services and building awareness. A finalized draft of the strategic plan will be given to the Simi Valley Library Board of Trustees for review and consideration in the first quarter of the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Councilmember Ruth Luevanos praised the library.

“The library is a gem. I’m a huge reader, as is my daughter, and all of the services offered by our library are just outstanding and the staff is amazing,” Luevanos said.

Luevanos added that the library embraces diversity, successfully collaborates with the city’s Youth Council and agencies, and is “truly a place for people of all ages and residents.

“There are other libraries that ban books, (but) you just do a phenomenal job,” Luevanos said. “You’re the jewel of the city in my eyes as a teacher, as a mother, as a Latina. I just want to thank you for all that you do.”

Mayor Pro Tem Elaine Litster agreed that the library is run well and praised the city’s partnership with LS&S. She also agreed that Kelly Behle, who is busy as the library’s director, needs an assistant to help with the large workload.

City Manager Brian Gabler said the contributions of LS&S have been valuable.

“LS&S has been a true partner with the city . . . providing library services and really responding to the community,” Gabler said. “We really don’t think we could’ve done a whole lot better.”

Councilmember Dee Dee Cavanaugh thanked Behle and the rest of the library staff for doing a fantastic job.

“I think we want to keep you guys around,” said Cavanaugh before making a motion to approve the new contract.

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