Library outsourcing drivers, goals and success factors


Team of LAC professionals who work onsite at a client’s facilities.

An article written by LAC Group founder and CEO Deborah Schwarz for 3 Geeks and a Law Blog cited five commonly held beliefs about library and information center outsourcing she referred to as “myths” because they don’t always represent reality.

Those five beliefs, which are often misbeliefs, are as follows:

  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.

We won’t re-hash those arguments here – to read in its entirety, this link will take you to the article.

She explored this topic further  at the SLA (Special Libraries Association) 2015 Annual Conference in Boston. Following are additional thoughts and points from her session “Revolutionize Library Management: Best Practices”.

Drivers Behind Library Outsourcing

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 or 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 a 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.

Critical Success Factors for Outsourcing

Here are the critical success factors to ensure that the above objectives and any others are accomplished successfully.

  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 us to hear about negative outsourcing arrangements and outcomes. 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

CEO at LAC Group
Deborah Schwarz is founder and CEO of LAC Group. As a “roll up your shirtsleeves” CEO, Ms. Schwarz routinely works alongside her project managers and staff, inspiring her team to pursue innovation and excellence in all projects and assignments. She is particularly interested in helping organizations focus on strategic and pragmatic solutions for managing information, research and assets.
Deborah Schwarz