News • October 15, 2022

How Outsourcing Helped a Growing City Transform its Library from an Afterthought into a Dynamic Asset

Manassas Park, Virginia, a city of 17,000 residents, made a major change in its library strategy in 2020. Before then, the county’s only library serving the city was an old, under-resourced facility run by the Prince William Public Libraries system. Hoping to better align the library with community needs while also saving money, Manassas Park withdrew from the county system and formed and developed its own library. 

Manassas Park City Manager Laszlo Palko explains how an outsourcing partnership with Library Systems & Services (LS&S) reinvigorated the community’s library and fueled the success of a new city library facility, now an anchor of its downtown revitalization project. 

Why did Manassas Park decide to leave the county library system?

We were experiencing difficult financial times and faced tough budget decisions, but we felt it was important to prioritize our library and make sure it would get the attention and investment it deserved. While we work closely with the county and still outsource many programs to them, in our minds the county model for the library was not serving the best interest of our community any longer. 

What’s the new library like? 

It’s a much larger and more modern full-service library offering virtual reality, a makerspace, 3D printing and other technology, in addition to traditional books, to get kids and community members excited about learning and enrichment. Because it is co-located downtown with other city departments, and with commercial and residential establishments, it can share library and public plaza space and collaborate on interesting services that might not typically be associated with libraries — such as a coffee shop, movies, concerts and other fun community engagement activities. 

Why did you decide to form a partnership with LS&S? 

We had a tremendous amount of work to do planning a new facility, procuring books, equipment and technology, hiring staff and managing all the other tasks that come with starting a library. Performing the work in house would have been expensive, and we didn’t have the deep resources and many years of experience that LS&S has. LS&S led the project and helped us with every detail from start to finish. We now have the best of both worlds — an outstanding asset owned by the community but managed by the library experts at LS&S. 

How did working with a private partner help ensure project success? 

I don’t know if we had the vision or experience to manage this project successfully [on our own]. LS&S has access to a national pool of library professionals, so they were able to recruit the library director who met our needs. In addition, we had access to professional human resource, information technology, finance, operations and marketing teams as well as significant discounts on products and services that we never would have gotten on our own. LS&S demanded the best in terms of facility buildout, quality of products and timing. They helped me establish a library from nothing, in short order, and make it a success.