Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Outsourcing and Privatization in Libraries: Ethical Concerns

"This paper addresses the ethical concerns libraries face when confronted with the need to streamline processes, meet budgetary constraints and attend to the challenges of an increasingly demanding patron base.
These issues have forced libraries to outsource or privatize many of their services and processes in both public and technical services. Many libraries have outsourced partial or entire technical service processes to outside providers. From material selection via an approval plan to cataloging by OCLC and other vendors to the physical processing of new materials by book dealers, the way libraries perform their work has changed. In addition, numerous others are looking to outside providers to supplement their reference services. Is this shift of responsibility appropriate to the goals of the modern library or is it a necessity to survive in today’s economy? What are the implications of the shift of services and processes from inside the library to the outside? Has quality been compromised? Do patrons notice? What effect has this shift had on library staffing and budgets? Have librarians given up their
expertise to save money?"

Another excerpt:

"Libraries are contracted out for two reasons: to save money for the bosses who decide to outsource, and to make money for the bosses who get the contract. There are some disturbing economics at work here. This practice says that the bottom line is not service but company profits, which flow from the lean margin between the bid for the job and the cost of providing service. High bids don’t win contracts; low bids leave little room for investing in the people and services that make the libraries work”
---- Karen Schneider, 1998

Source and authors:
Todd Spires, Bradley University
J.B. Hill, Southeastern Louisiana University


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