Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Notes and Whatnot on "A Look at Public Library Management Outsourcing"

Public Libraries.  Volume 51, number 3.  May/June 2012.

Two variations:
  1. Administrative.  Library contracts with a vendor to manage the library temporarily.  (Broadly speaking, I suppose this variation could include my experience as Interim Director at the Portage Public Library, Sep-Nov 2009, and Menasha Public Library, Mar-Jun 2011.)
  2. Organizational.  Municipality outsources all library staff, not just the director.  (And not necessarily on a temporary basis.)

Management contracts
  • Generally 3 to 5 years in length
  • Renewable

Contractor responsibilities
  • Library staffing
    • No longer municipal employees
    • Placed in limbo, staff are "encouraged" to apply
    • Contractor does the hiring
  • Library's daily operations

What remains in place
  • Library board
  • Status as a public library

I decided to reformat Table 1 on page 43.

All but 3 are located in California, Tennessee, and Texas.

Missing from or needing to be added to the Public Library list.

By way of comparison, there are 8,951 public library administrative units and 16,417 stationary outlets, i.e., central libraries and branches, in the United States.  (Source:  Institute for Museum and Library Services, "Public Libraries in the United States: Fiscal Year 2010", which is the most current edition.)

Contracting process
  1. Request for proposal (RFP)
    • describes expected services, e.g., 
      • programming
      • processing materials
      • re-shelving materials
      • hiring staff
      • strategic planning
    • provides assessment criteria
  2. Submission of proposals*
  3. Evaluation of proposals
*Unless there is a counter proposal from the staff, municipalities can expect just one proposal to be submitted.

Library Systems and Services LLC currently has a monopoly on the outsourcing of libraries marketplace.

The article concludes with a series of recommendations

1.  For library staff that wish to participate in an outsourcing contract
  • Work closely with municipality in preparing RFP.
  • Specify clearly services to be provided and the expected level of each service
2.  For library staff that would like to submit a counter proposal in response to an RFP for library management contracting
  • Review carefully other outsourcing documents (public records)
  • Master the language used on proposals
  • Emphasize the benefits of being a public entity, of local management
3.  For library staff that wish to resist a potential outsourcing of library management and staff  (what follow is "in so many words")
  • Build strong relationships with elected and appointed officials.  (This, of course, needs to be done well before the outsourcing wolf comes to the door.)
  • Strive to make your library the heart of its community.  (Ditto)

In the final paragraph, the author notes that.... 

What seemed like a stalled trend in early 2010 now appears to be a swiftly growing phenomenon.

Since this article was published in 2012, 4 public libraries have been to LSSI's roster, 3 of them in California.   

LSSI's contract with the Sumter County Board of Commissioners took effect on October 1, 2013.  You might find the "budget impact" information enlightening.

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Related posts:
Millington to LSSI: Take these chains and set us free.  (12/7/2012) 
LSSI walks back its UK target.  (11/28/2011)
For-profit, privately run public libraries: anecdotal vs. actual evidence. (7/27/2011)
Santa Clarita Mayor eventually trumpets the library's LSSI connection.  (7/4/2011)
Bill passed by California Assembly sets up roadblocks to public library privatization. (6/4/2011)
LSSI's fairly pathetic track record.  (3/4/2011)
Camarillo sez goodbye to Ventura County, hello to Library Systems.  (10/26/2010)
Privatizing @ your library.  (9/27/2010)
Outsourcing, Volunteers, and LMMC.  (1/22/2010)

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