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The digital library: Point of no return?

Library outsourcing in a pandemic

August 26, 2020

Home Blog The digital library: Point of no return?
digital library point of no return

Over the years I have both written and spoken about how the business case for outsourcing can be compelling under the right circumstance. Has that moment arrived along with a certain virulent bug?

Many firms have been on the verge of “going digital” for the past few years, inching their way towards this goal by whittling away physical space and canceling print subscriptions. This pandemic has changed the equation by accelerating what was already in motion. With everyone working from home, remote access to resources and to library and research staff is only possible through video conferencing, email or phone.

These new conditions support the outsourcing model; remote, assigned or dedicated, distributed teams working and serving the information and research needs of the law firm.

There are other factors at play that may keep library and research services remote once we are past this pandemic, not the least of which is financial. Why go back to the expense of supporting a physical library when the proof of concept for remote services using electronic resources and staff has been successful? Obviously, continuing a digital library operation post-COVID will have an impact on staff requirements as those positions concerned with managing print (updating, filing, labeling, distributing, etc.) have to pivot. Administering electronic resources still requires fiscal management, some form of cataloging or organization, training, licensing compliance and password management. Qualified staff is needed to make it all come together.

The case for library outsourcing

So where does outsourcing come into play? Since its inception, LAC Group has made a business out of managing libraries. We set a high bar for ourselves with every engagement. We routinely establish and report on Key Performance Indicators. We define and are held accountable for service levels that dictate best practices and standards for delivering all facets of library operations; research, electronic resource account management, training and strategic leadership. We collaborate with our clients and guide them towards innovation. We have always said that people are our business, and in fact, we are the largest private employer of librarians in the United States. That we have been in business for almost 35 years is testament to the fact that we do it well.

What we proposed in 1998 with our first big outsourcing contract does not look much like any of our current engagements. Like library services itself, LAC has evolved. When we first created a virtual research team to support on-site staff several years ago it was because we recognized that the digital delivery of information, research and competitive intelligence was becoming a standard, accepted practice. While we read the implications of this trend correctly, we did not foresee a pandemic moving things forward in hyperdrive.

Moving into the future

As many law firms look ahead to the immediate future and work to adjust to the impact that COVID has imposed on their operations, LAC has a solid playbook for how to deliver research and library operational services in a digital environment. Over 50 firms already depend on us to provide these services utilizing our virtual team of researchers, analysts and procurement professionals. Like everyone else, we too are gazing into that crystal ball to determine what life will be like in the workplace once this pandemic is behind us. LAC is well positioned to assist our clients in sustaining and growing a successful virtual library operation because we have been doing it for many years.

Deborah Schwarz

Deborah Schwarz

Deborah Schwarz is Founder and Strategic Advisor at LAC Group. She helps organizations focus on strategic and pragmatic solutions for managing information, research and assets.
Deborah Schwarz

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