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Library outsourcing drivers

Goals and success factors

July 08, 2015

Home Blog Library outsourcing drivers


An article I wrote several months ago for one my favorite legal blogs – 3 Geeks and a Law Blog – cited 5 commonly held beliefs about outsourcing that I referred to as “myths” because they don’t always represent reality. I explored this topic further last month at the SLA (Special Libraries Association) 2015 Annual Conference in Boston.

Five beliefs about outsourcing that are not always true:

  1. Outsourcing is less expensive.
  2. Outsourcing disrupts morale.
  3. Outsourcing sends jobs to faraway places.
  4. Outsourcing denigrates wages and devalues the employee who is outsourced.
  5. Outsourcing turns permanent jobs into temporary assignments.

I won’t re-hash my arguments here – to read in its entirety, this link will take you to the article. But I will share some additional thoughts and points I discussed as one of the speakers at the “Revolutionize Library Management: Best Practices” session at the SLA conference.

Drivers Behind Library Outsourcing

In my experience, we find similar circumstances driving an organization’s decision to explore outsourcing the daily operations of their library or media/information center. Organizations nearly always come face-to-face with a library outsourcing decision for one of these reasons:

Library Director Retires

The role of the director is so critical, when a person who has been in that role for some time retires or leaves the organization, it becomes a natural decision point for considering an outsourced solution, or at least bringing in a specialized firm like ours to advise on future strategy.

Physical Space Challenges

When the decision is made to re-purpose your physical library space for other use, or to move to different facilities, it makes sense to involve an outside expert in evaluating your management capabilities and options.

Physical Library Goes Away, but Need for Information Doesn’t

If you disband, decentralize or disassemble your library, you will find gaps that must be addressed in serving your organization’s information needs.

New Initiatives, Change to Status Quo

A major new initiative might overwhelm your in-house capabilities. That might be an increase in digital resources, a new subscription-management plan, better integration with your organization’s website or intranet.

As for goals and objectives and what most organizations hope to accomplish with an outsourcing decision, we find more common themes:

  • Better use and management of staff and other resources.
  • Control and management of online news and data subscriptions.
  • Training and orientation of far-flung user community.
  • Rights management and copyright compliance.

Some of these concerns may be more pressing than others, but any one or combination of them is an often-cited objective of what our clients hope to accomplish with our expertise.

Finally, I’ll finish with some critical success factors to ensure that these objectives and any others are accomplished successfully.

Critical Success Factors for Outsourcing

  1. Good intentions and realistic expectations. Do you have realistic outsourcing goals? Are you doing this in the most honorable, ethical way? Do you have a road map to ease the transition?
  2. Capabilities and experience of the outsourcing provider. Do you believe you can move forward with the vendor you are choosing? Can you trust that provider to stay in step with your needs as they change and keep your best interests at the forefront?
  3. Terms and conditions of the outsourcing agreement. If a vendor proposes cost savings or makes promises that seem too good to be true, you know what they say—they probably are!

Many organizations turn to outsourcing solely as a cost-saving measure. While direct financial benefits are a key factor, consistent, predictable costs and other indirect savings are the true measures of value and success over time. In addition, good outsourcing partnerships offload some of your management burdens and allow you to tap into the expertise and efficiencies of your outsourcing provider.

It pains me to hear about negative outsourcing arrangements and outcomes when it doesn’t have to be that way. Good outsourcing arrangements are true, collaborative partnerships that are rewarding for both sides and everyone involved.

What does a successful outsourcing partnership look like? 

Deborah Schwarz

Deborah Schwarz

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

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