Revitalising outsourcing

What are the pros and cons of outsourcing for information professionals?

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Different degrees of outsourcing

Outsourcing can be an emotive issue but it can mean very different things to different people.  

In some circumstances outsourcing has become so much part of accepted practice that it's no longer queried - book stock arriving shelf-ready for example, or using agencies to manage subscriptions. Here the benefits seem cut and dried and such examples of outsourcing are used in almost every library from public sector to special, legal and government.  Where opinion tends to become polarised is where entire library and information management departments are outsourced to a different organisation or country, sometimes resulting in no trace of the physical function remaining on-site.

However, outsourcing on a larger scale doesn't need to be an all or nothing approach but can be used selectively to provide enhanced services for library users and increased opportunities for staff. 


Organisations considering outsourcing are usually approaching it as part of a long-term strategy or as a result of a sudden crisis.

  • Need for cost savings
  • Outside expertise required
  • Massive cultural/organisational change required eg move from traditional to a digital library service
  • Financial or other crisis
  • Seeking more services for less money
  • Improve storage efficiencies
  • Make better use of/monetise archives
  • Address environmental concerns
  • Implement new technology eg SharePoint
  • Physical to digital migration


The benefits can loosely be grouped into time/cost efficiencies; service levels; and other.

Time/cost efficiencies

  • More efficient and streamlined processes
  • Reduced staff numbers and/or cost of staffing
  • Improved buying power on aspects from subscriptions to IT
  • Relevant information to fee earners in a more timely and cost efficient manner

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