A judge has ruled that nothing in the California Public Records Act prevents a city from contracting with a private firm to administer its public library—even if it means giving the contractor access to patrons' confidential borrowing records.

Michael Kelly reports for LibraryJournal.com:

In a hearing at the Chatsworth branch of Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Barbara Scheper ruled that the city of Santa Clarita's contract with Library Systems & Services LLC (LSSI) of Germantown, MD, would not violate patrons' privacy rights as LSSI would be acting as the "administrator" of the library and, therefore, was entitled to the information.

"The City is gratified that the Court affirmed our position and upheld the City Council's efforts to create our own library system utilizing LSSI for the administration of the City's libraries," Mayor Marsha McLean said in a statement.

The grassroots organization Save Our Library (SOL), led by Don Ricketts, a local attorney, had asserted that the city's five-year deal with LSSI, which was signed in October, would violate the California Public Records Act.

"Finding that LSSI is the administrator of the library pushes this whole deal a lot closer to true privatization and away from a truly municipal public library," Ricketts said in a press release.

Before signing its $19.1 million contract with LSSI, Santa Clarita's City Council voted August 24 to withdraw the city's three libraries from the County of Los Angeles Public Library system. The deal with LSSI takes effect July 1.

The court also consolidated two remaining lawsuits, one brought by SOL and the other by Ed Shain --- they both allege that the City Council violated the state's open-meeting law (the Brown Act).

"The court's ruling today may impact the Brown Act case," Ricketts said.

A hearing is scheduled March 21.