This page has been accessed times since 27 January 1998.

ALA Outsourcing Task Force

Saturday, January 10, 1998
9:30 am - 12:30 pm
Marriott Hotel - St. Charles Suite

(UNOFFICIAL Notes prepared by Judith Hopkins, University at Buffalo)

  1. Introduction of Task Force members. LaDonna T. Kienitz, City Librarian, Newport Beach, CA is chair

  2. Review of Task Force charge.

    • To advise the Association on issues relating to outsourcing, subcontracting, and privatization of library services.

    • To gather data and examine the literature on these issues and to evaluate the impact on library services and operations.

    • To examine past ALA positions and how these issues relate to the ALA Code of Ethics and other Association policies.

    • To provide an opportunity for general membership discussion at Annual Conference, 1998.

    • To provide Council with a comprehensive report with recommendations at Midwinter, 1999.

  3. General issues for discussion.

    Use of common definitions for terms 'outsourcing", "contracting out", and "privatization"

    Outsourcing is the transfer of functions formerly performed within a library to an outside agency. (Paraphrase from memory). There was some dispute about this proposed definition, especially the inclusion of the word "formerly" on the basis that it excludes those functions that a library would have liked to perform but had been unable to do for any of a variety of reasons and which now are being performed by an outside agency. [See further definitions at end of minutes for Monday's meeting]

    What other past ALA policy discussions are relevant to this discussion?

    What are the ethical principles that drive the discussion on outsourcing?

    What do librarians uniquely do that cannot be outsourced?

    How do we establish 'public good' vs. 'private interests'?

  4. Informational presentations

    CARMEL BUSH, Assistant Dean, Technical Services, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO:

    "Outsourcing for disaster recovery".

    When you have a disaster, outsourcing of services for recovery is inevitable. Need storage space, communications, document and engineering recovery, packout services (78,000 boxes), freeze-drying services, cleaning services, technology salvage services (didn't impress her), facility recovery services (fire alarms, elevators, etc.), sanitizing, telecommunications, utilities, people to move material, etc.

    Document repair. Had to set up information/database management system as they had 125 people working in two shifts. This was library controlled.

    Service replacement. Passenger services to other libraries, a courier service to connect your spread-out locations.

    A disaster recovery plan is essential. Librarians must know what is in their collections (if you have done full recon you will be well off).

    Definition evaluation. Needs library expertise.

    Need to pre-qualify service vendors before the disaster occurs. Have draft contracts ready.

    Need to know costs, quality measures, etc.

    In response to question: have not yet decided if they will permanently contract-out some of these services.

    JEWEL ARMSTRONG PLAYER. President Federal Librarians Round Table ANNE A. HEANUE, Associate Director, ALA Washington Office

    "Federal libraries"

    HEANUE: ALA disagrees with OMB inclusion of library services as a commercial activity.

    PLAYER: The types of federal libraries parallels those that exist in private sector. Often have to justify their existence.

    Some federal libraries contract out particular services and, in last 5 years, full library operation. It is imperative that librarians remain in charge. It is not contract librarians who are the trouble, it is the contract managers. Check article in American Libraries, Jan. 1998.

    The trend is to state what you want done in general terms, but not to say HOW it should be done. The latter is dangerous. It is important to say WHY something has to be done. Need standards based on various levels of service. (Example is a work by Jose-Marie Griffiths that contains a list of functions that should be performed). One should perform a study and prepare a performance work statement. You must limit yourself to what you are currently doing and the size of your current staff; you cannot require an increased level of service.

    46 air force libraries were targeted for outsourcing; 17 were contracted out, usually the larger ones. A detailed and very good generalized performance work statement was prepared.

    Contractors tend to over-state their experience and tend to get in touch with base commanders and others at that level instead of with the librarian.

    MURRAY MARTIN (representing ILERT: Independent Librarians Exchange Round Table):

    "Services of Independent Librarians"

    In New Zealand libraries are being defined as businesses and being required to operate at a profit. (See Cooper and Lybrand study which he reviewed for Technicalities) All services must be commercialized. The state, city, etc. still retains ownership of the assets. There is no understanding of the value and costs of managing libraries.

    Independent Library vendors offer services and expertise that a library cannot provide, including consulting. (However, some states forbid state libraries to hire consultants).

    He expressed concern about fragmentation of the contract librarians working in libraries.

    GEORGE COE, Vice-President of Book Division and Library Automation Division, Brodart
    MICHAEL WILDER, Manager of Customized Library Services, Brodart

    "Book vendor services"

    COE: For over 60 years Brodart has been involved in outsourcing at various levels. To them outsourcing involves various types of services.

    Collection development: They provide list services so libraries can make appropriate decisions. TIPS is a customized profile-driven service consisting of reproductions of reviews, arranged in order preferred by library. To them, outsourcing is the degree of service that the library asks them to perform.

    They provided opening day collections to numerous libraries: e.g., Virginia Beach, VA; Atlanta-Fulton County, GA.

    WILDER: Cataloging and processing. Primary core of their business is providing outsourcing services, starting with provision of plastic covers over 35 years ago.

    Since 1980s the bar of services provided by vendors has been raised. Vendors have been asked to provide call numbers, original cataloging, etc. The library must remain responsible for quality; it must provide vendor with detailed performance statements and must provide evaluations to vendors.

    Library staff must be involved with development of specifications.

    It is important that vendor professional librarians remain involved in mainstream library activities.

    In 1985 they had 6 customers; today, over 300.

    TF member (Raymond Santiago): Outsourcing is not a substitute for bad management.

    PAT WALLACE, Chair of SRRT Hawaii Working Group.

    "Outsourcing experiences of Hawaii Library System"

    Her primary concern is with using tax-provided funds to pay vendors to select for public and school libraries.

    The Hawaii experience was precedent-setting: it was the first example of using tax funds to select. Staff are civil servants. Service deteriorated. ALA Council took no position.

    Features of the Hawaii plan.

    • Not an approval plan; crude guidelines only.
    • No staff input.
    • Material was not returnable.
    • Flat fee for each title.
    • No money was set aside for other book acquisition.
    • All collection development and cataloging staff were re-assigned to other duties.
    • Blurring of line between selection and collection development.
    • Money was not saved by outsourcing contract because of sloppy oversight and $795,000 payment to Baker and Taylor for their expenses in setting up their infrastructure for the project.

      Lessons learned.
    • Outsourcing as conceived in corporate business world was not intended to be applied to "core services", just to peripheral services. (ALA and libraries are shooting themselves in the foot if they cannot define what are their core functions).
    • It is a misuse of tax funds to give a profit-making organization supervision of a basic library function.
    • Even if the contract is upheld in court, there is a need to reserve some funds for acquiring specialized materials, e.g., small publishing houses.

    SHEILA S. INTNER, Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Services, Simmons College:

    "Historical overview".

    She defined outsourcing as contracting with outside organizations to provide library materials and services.

    Outsourcing has been used throughout the 20th century to provide functions of libraries. While criticism has been made of all types of outsourcing, only the outsourcing of selection has been legally challenged (Hawaii). Outsourcing is accompanied by down-sizing of staff and re-organization. There are correlations with the growth of technology.

      Timeline (incomplete):
    • 1828 Bindery in Hartford, Ct. published books and sold them by subscription.
    • 1881 Faxon started serial subscription business
    • 1901 LC began selling catalog cards.
    • ...
    • Controversy began with the Greenaway Plan in 1950s.
    • 1967 Conference on approval plans in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
    • 1967 OCLC was founded
    • 1985 OCLC launched TechPro Service
    • 1995 Hawaii contracts with Baker and Taylor for selection and processing
    Librarianship and our vision of what librarians should do with their time changes. We now work more closely with vendors.

    TF member (Pat Schuman): We must take into account the whole attack on public services from Reagan administration onward.

    TF member (Gary Shirk): There are hammers looking for things to hit. Society is facing question of where to place its money. Outsourcing is a manifestation of changes that are taking place at all levels.

    Janet Swan Hill (TF member): Institutions are making decisions in terms of their own needs without taking into account the general good of the profession (a training ground for catalogers or acquisitions librarians, etc.)

    TF member (SS?): What does society value?

  5. Determination of methods of obtaining input for ALA members

      Suggestions received:
    • Open forums - Midwinter, Annual conference
    • Scheduled forum at Midwinter, Sunday, January 11, 1998, 3-5 pm, ROYAL SONESTA HOTEL, Evangeline Ballroom
    • Use of ALA Internet Forum
    • Outsourcing Task Force listserv
    • Use of American Libraries
    • Use of other listservs
    • Other suggestions

  6. General discussion of issues: (see Monday meeting for organization and expansion of these issues)
    • Role of libraries
    • Role of librarians
    • Issue of library cooperation. Concern that much that is outsourced to vendors for cataloging does not get into national databases.
    • Cataloging done elsewhere is not made available to vendors
    • Commercialization
    • Public good vs private interest
    • Interaction between librarians and vendors; importance of good communication
    • Importance of good evaluation
    • Isolation of contract librarian
    • Report should have both external and internal environment scan.
    • ALA has both library managers and staff, non-librarians and librarians - resulting in a certain stress
    • Determining what our core services are, what we do best
    • Competencies
    • Local control
    • Cost effectiveness: Hidden costs of doing outsourcing
    • Doing what when.
    • ALA role.
    • Human resources impact: staff moral, job security, etc.
    • Issues relating to contract creation and modification, evaluation of vendor performance.
    • Are we outsourcing training for professional responsibilities to vendors?

Monday, January 12, 1998
1:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Marriott Hotel - Napoleon Suite

  1. Informational presentations

    JAN ISON, Director, Lincoln Trail Libraries System, Champaign, Illinois

    "Services provided to Libraries of Multi-Type Library Systems"

    The Lincoln Trail Library System consists of 118 multi-type libraries, from UIUC to small public, school, and special libraries. Funding comes from state via legislative mandate and from local support.

    Ms. Ison listed some of the services the system performs that they consider to be providing outsourcing services to their members: shared automation system. Lincoln Trail is also manager of the telecommunications system. Some systems in Illinois and elsewhere offer shared reference, 24 hours a day. Lincoln Trail manages cataloging for libraries that lack MLS librarian (libraries pay for this service). The system does contract negotiation for its members. A past service was management of a shared collection of video materials. Some systems in US run Community Information networks. Electronic licensing. Continuing education and training program.

    Levels of control for various services vary; for many it ranges from medium to full control being given to the system. In a sense they have outsourced these functions to the system. She foresees greater shared automation and telecommunications, training of patrons on how to use new resources; at any rate, certainly training the trainer. Collection development of electronic resources and other systems and services that libraries do not have experience in performing.

    In response to a question, she said that the area of evaluation of services offered is one of their weakest.

    Questioner expressed bother at considering services offered by a library cooperative as outsourcing. Realized that Task Force had not yet defined the term. Membership vs. customer role for participating libraries.

    CAROLINE A. KILLENS, Acquisitions Librarian, University of Georgia, Athens, GA.

    "Use of OCLC Services."

    She provided a user's perspective of OCLC. The University of Georgia began using the OCLC database in 1970s and began recon in 1980s. Services used by the University of Georgia libraries:
    PUBLIC SERVICES: FirstSearch, implemented at statewide level as part of Galileo. Interlibrary loan, both ILL Micro- Enhancer and ILL Fee Management System.

    TECHNICAL SERVICES: TechPro and PromptCat. Despite a cataloging department of 40 persons, they use TechPro for materials in which they lack language expertise. One person supervised the project which involved several thousand titles. PromptCat is a 3 phased project: expanding a large scale approval plan into the trade arena (March 1995); implementing PromptCat (discussions began in summer 1996) in early 1997; not implementing label segment of PromptCat until Windows 95 is installed. They are also not using OCLC's Bibliographic Notification System.

    Tf member (Karen Schneider) asked if there had been any staff reductions. No. What do you catalog yourself? Those for which there is no PromptCat record.

    Does your staff think of cataloging done through PromptCat as outsourcing? More as special projects. Another TF member pointed out that OCLC is a shared cataloging system.

    JOHANNAH SHERRER, Director of the library, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR.

    "ALA Professional Ethics Committee"

    One of the TF charges was to examine past ALA policies, especially ALA Code of Ethics. The current Code of Ethics dates back to 1995.

    Governance of committee: will provide comments on Code and expand it, either itself or through policies elicited from other bodies.

    Ethical dilemmas occur when values are in conflict. Committee's role is NOT to play a role in specific situations in specific institutions.

    What can committee do for the Task Force? Meet with TF to help distinguish ethical issues from management issues. Work with TF to determine if a statement on ethics is needed as part of TF output.

    Two ALA associations (ALCTS and one other) have developed their own statement of ethics based on ALA Code of Ethics.

    GRETCHEN FREEMAN, Dynix Communications Officer

    "Criteria for Automation Outsourcing"

    Library automation is an area where libraries have had successful experience with outsourcing since the 1970s. In 1994 AmeriTech first offered a total library automation outsourcing (AmeriTech owns the hardware, provides and maintains it, provides staffing). Need for it came from large libraries which found automation taking over and from small libraries which wanted sophisticated systems that they were not able to provide.

    Provides predictable growth path and costs, increases service levels (e.g., after-hours services); allows library to concentrate on its core services.

    Needs detailed description of services and support you expect vendor to provide. Need to define what system administration consists of. Is vendor expected to provide system updates and if so on what schedule? Do you expect vendor to print and mail overdue notices? What evaluation mechanisms will exist?

    ALA should help libraries act as businesses.

    TF member asked what kinds of risks libraries expect? Loss of control.

    TF member commented about loss of technical personnel available to libraries. Answer: Expertise may not be needed on-site fulltime. There is a question of economies of scale for vendor to provide technical skills.

  2. Identification of additional information needed.

    Policies from Intellectual Freedom Committee, Legislation Committee, and a third ALA unit. Policy Monitoring Committee of Council.

    Instead of asking them to share their expertise, TF should prepare a draft document and ask them to comment on it.

  3. Format for open forum at annual conference.

    Will ask for meeting sites at Convention Center.

  4. Other methods for obtaining ALA membership input.

    ALA listserv. Will provide input from those who do not attend ALA. But will the input be any different from that obtained from speakers at ALA open forums? Need to provide parameters and statements to which people can respond rather than open-ended questions.

    American Libraries for those who lack access to listservs and web sites.

  5. Assignments - timeline for work to June meeting

    Discussion and organization of issues generated at Saturday meeting.

    • External scan
    • Internal scan - what the TF has done to date; trends; background, statistics
    • Rationale for outsourcing
      • When
      • What
      • Equity vs.efficiency
      • Cost effectiveness
      • Staffing issues
      • Expertise issues
      • Effect on user community
    • Governance
      • Local control
      • Public vs private control
      • Private sector providing public services
      • Legal issue
      • Accountability
      • Country of ownership
      • Intellectual property
    • Role of libraries
      • Is it good for library service?
      • Mission, objectives
      • Role in the community
    • Role of librarians
      • Core values
      • Deciding what we do best
      • Core competencies (skill sets, minimum requirements, ,
      • professional ethics)
      • Distinctive competencies
      • Promulgating professional values
    • Issues related to intellectual freedom and moral action
      • The potential to control library practices with a certain agenda
      • Legislative tie-in
    • Human resources impact
      • Outsourcing of professional training
      • Isolation of contract librarians
      • Labor
      • Equitable pay
      • Benefits
      • Management of Human resources
      • Impact on knowledge base: degeneration of intellectual capital
      • Downsizing
      • Retention and recruiting
      • Impact on library education
    • Public good vs Private Interests
      • What is public?
      • What is public good?
      • Redirection of "public funds" to private firms? Can this apply to private universities, corporate libraries?
      • Commercialization of public services
      • What is a public [school, academic, etc.] library
      • Is there a difference between consortia/shared services /networks and private vendors?
      • Public/private competition
      • Stability
    • Contracts for Outsourcing
      • Evaluation
      • Performance
      • Library/vendor interactions
      • Local control
      • Standards
      • Need for awareness that library must determine what is in contract
    • Diversity and general
      • Library management
      • Conflicting values

    TF members volunteered to prepare draft one-page papers on groups of issue, defining what the issue is and why it is an issue. To be done by 15 Feb. 1998.

    LaDonna Kienitz provided some draft definitions:
    OUTSOURCING: Contracting with external organizations to perform library functions. services, and activities.

    CONTRACTING OUT: To have an outside contractor produce or provide a service.

    PRIVATIZATION: To contract out to the private sector activities being undertaken by the public sector.

    There was some feeling that definitions will naturally arise from TF discussion.

    The meeting was adjourned.