Exclusive | Manassas Park outlines plan to leave Prince William library, privatize services

The Manassas Park City Hall.

Manassas Park is ready to take the next steps to leave the Prince William Public Library System and open its own library.

To do so, city leaders want to hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 18 on a plan to hire California-based firm Library Systems & Services to operate a new library that would be located at 9701 Manassas Drive. That’s the site of the old General’s Ridge Golf Course that was shuttered last year.

The city renamed the land Blooms Park and reclassified it as a passive-use park for walking and hiking. The firm, Library Systems & Services, lists a Riverside, Calif. address at the top of its website, and a Rockville, Md. address second and also notes is operates libraries in California, Tennessee, and Texas.

Manassas Park officials have been working with representatives from the firm’s Maryland office, according to city documents.

If approved, the firm would be responsible for providing staffing for the new library and consulting on how to operate it. The city currently has no one on staff that knows how to manage a library, according to city documents.

City leaders didn’t provide the anticipated costs for Library Systems & Services to manage the city’s new library. However, it does state the contractor’s fees would be $65,000 to $75,000 less than if the city were to hire its own library staff, at an estimated cost of $350,000 to $360,000 annually.

If the city were to hire its own staff, it estimates a total of four people would be needed to include a director, two librarians, and an assistant. They would report to city parks and recreation director Jay Swisher, according to city documents.

The city also stands to save as much as $3 million over 10 years if it were to leave the Prince William Public Library System, documents state.

The city says the privatization route is the preferred choice due, in part, to “the short timeline of establishing a library by July 2020….” July 1 is the start of the new fiscal year and the end of the city’s current agreement with the county library system.

Manassas City also considering its options

As Manassas Park ponders its exit from the Prince William Public Library System, so, too, is neighboring Manassas City. It is the third of the three jurisdictions in the public library system.

Manassas City leaders are eying the prospect of opening their own library at the Wellington Station shopping center, at the corner of Grant Avenue and Wellington Road. It, too, has explored the option of hiring a private firm to run the library.

Neither Manassas or Manassas Park has a library inside the borders of their respective cities. Residents use Central Library, at 8601 Mathis Avenue, located on county property.

A total of 70% of Prince Willam County residents have library cards, compared to 45% of Manassas City residents, according to a Manassas City website. The population differences, however, there is a stark contrast between the populations of the two jurisdictions. Nearly half a million people live in Prince William, while almost 42,000 live in Manassas City.

Manassas and Manassas Park’s agreement with the Prince William Public Library System dates back to 1976 and 1979, respectively.

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