Library management company abruptly pulls bid for Huntington Beach services

Brenda Tornero walks out of the Huntington Beach Public Library.
In an email to city staff, Library Systems & Services pulled the bid it had made to manage Huntington Beach libraries. As of Tuesday afternoon, the City Council had received nearly 300 emails, mostly against the outsourcing of management of library services.
(File Photo)
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The Huntington Beach City Council was set to vote Tuesday night on a bid from Library Systems & Services to possibly outsource library operations.

Instead, the offer from the private company is suddenly off the table.

Library Systems & Services pulled its bid in an email to city staff Monday afternoon, which is being called a victory by those seeking to keep library operations public.

LS&S chief executive Todd Frager sent the email Monday, requesting that the agenda item be withdrawn since LS&S is withdrawing its response to the city’s request for proposals.


Frager did not say in the email why the company was pulling out, city public affairs manager Jennifer Carey confirmed Tuesday. Former Huntington Beach Mayor Mike Posey, who now works at LS&S as a regional sales executive, declined comment when reached via phone.

Huntington Beach Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark said Tuesday she didn’t know why the bid was pulled, but she was OK with it.

“When the RFP came out, maybe they realized what we were looking for and what they could offer wasn’t a good fit, wasn’t a good match,” Van Der Mark said. “That’s the whole purpose of the RFP. I have no problem with it. We were looking for efficiency, and we’re doing that in every department.”

Van Der Mark said she would still like to modernize the Central Library a little bit and cater it toward the needs of the community, with things like a section for homeschooling materials.

Bruce Growth takes his grandchildren, Logan and Juliana Weber, to the Huntington Beach Public Library.
Bruce Growth takes his grandchildren, Logan and Juliana Weber, to the Huntington Beach Public Library in May 2023.
(File Photo)

Libraries have been a hot topic in Surf City in recent months. In March, the conservative City Council majority voted 4-3 to seek bids for outsourcing of library management. Library Systems & Services had approached city staff late last year, claiming it could save the city about $1 million per year.

In May, minority City Council members Dan Kalmick, Rhonda Bolton and Natalie Moser brought forward an item to pause the RFP process and send it to voters to decide, but that failed by the same 4-3 vote.

Carol Daus, a board member of Friends of the Huntington Beach Public Library, said she was excited that LS&S withdrew its bid.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the council had received nearly 300 emails, mostly against the outsourcing of management of library services.

“We do view it as a win,” Daus said. “We won the battle. We didn’t win the war quite yet, but this is huge in terms of getting them out of the picture. We don’t need a for-profit corporation coming in and managing our library when we are managed so well, so efficiently with great staff that are loved by the community.”

Two petitions have begun collecting signatures in Huntington Beach in recent weeks. One seeks to repeal the parent/guardian children’s book review board ordinance, while a more recently launched petition seeks to put public library operations in the city’s municipal code.

More than 6,000 signatures have been collected for the book review petition in about a month, Daus said, while the library operations petition has gathered about 1,500 signatures in just more than a week.

Both of them would require signatures of 10% of the voters of Huntington Beach, though the Orange County Registrar of Voters recommends collecting an additional 50% — slightly less than 20,000 total signatures — to account for disqualified signers.

“We want to keep the corporate interests out of our library system,” Daus said. “Even though LS&S did remove the bid, we have no protection right now that they might not come back in the future, or that even in the short term they would rewrite the RFP. There’s all kinds of things that could still happen.”