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Managing Outsourcing in Library and Information Services

Sheila Pantry and Peter Griffiths


Facet Publishing

October 2004




ISBN 1 85604 543 9


Information centres and libraries, irrespective of the sector, are typically viewed as overheads by their management, which is an extremely risky position for them to be in today. For survival and success, it is imperative to get senior management to shift its focus from your expenditure to the value of the information services you provide.

This book will help to show how successful outsourcing can assist managers and staff in providing the services users want. It shows that the very process of examining the effectiveness of each separate service element (when considering outsourcing as an option), has spin-off benefits for the information service. Illustrated by case studies and checklists, this new book looks at:

  • evaluating current operations
  • deciding when information should be outsourced – results of the information audit
  • the nature of outsourcing information services
  • negotiating and formatting outsourcing agreements
  • keeping outsourcing agreements on target
  • keeping users happy with outsourced services
  • communication strategies.

The outsourcing debate remains highly relevant to information services and library managers. Tackling it successfully will not only ensure that your service is perceived as a strategic asset but will also enhance its client-centred approach.


To outsource or not to outsource?

Outsourcing in library and information services, as the authors remark in their introductory chapter, is nothing new. For up to a century, libraries have contracted out routine tasks such as the preparation of catalogue cards, labelling of books or cleaning and maintenance of buildings. But delivery of the complete service by an outside contracted organisation – also known as externalisation – is a recent phenomenon.

For outsourcing to succeed it must be planned systematically, and the authors provide a logical and detailed account of the process. The first stage should be an information audit of the existing organisation, the results of which can be used in deciding whether it is right to outsource. The next chapter looks at information ownership, and the benefits to the organisation of using a third-party information service provider.

The authors then take us through the stages of the outsourcing process, from supplier selection, scheduling and documentation to contract, including a detailed discussion of what the outsourcing agreement should contain. They conclude with four chapters on vital aspects of outsourcing: monitoring progress and coping with service failure; keeping users happy with the outsourced service; addressing the concerns of existing staff and the need for a communication strategy. In concentrating on process it is so easy to forget the human aspects, and it is pleasing to see that the authors give these such emphasis.

This is a thorough and clearly laid out treatment, benefiting from the use of bulleted lists and end-of-chapter summaries. It also includes a detailed bibliography, which is enhanced by scope notes on many of the items.

It should be required reading for any service contemplating outsourcing.

John Sherwell

Update, July/August 2005, 4(7-8), p. 59

Getting inside outsourcing

With outsourcing firmly part of the modern working environment, information professionals will find this guide invaluable. Tracey Caldwell takes a closer look

Library and information workers must realise that managing the outsourcing of parts of their department is a legitimate part of their job description. According to the authors of Managing Outsourcing in library and information services, outsourcing is not a new phenomenon and information professionals should be prepared to deal with it, particularly in the public sector, which is embracing contracting out the entire information service.

The authors say that attention to detail is key to the success of an outsourcing contract, beginning with a detailed information audit. The book provides a step-by-step manual to the outsourcing process. Each chapter guides the readers through the successive stages of outsourcing, beginning with a useful outline of its contents, and ending with a full summary.

It acknowledges the long tradition of outsourcing low-level processes, such as cleaning and maintenance, and includes these in a holistic look at the outsourcing process. A look at the reasons for outsourcing guides the reader through a minefield of copyright and ownership issues that cannot simply be shipped to an outside supplier.

A practical schedule for outsourcing includes the timings to be allowed for each stage of the process. Would-be outsourcers are advised on what to include in a contract, and chapter eight suggests wordings that the reader might use when drawing up the contract

A successful outsourcing deal depends as much on people as getting the wording of the contract right. Keeping users happy and mollifying staff who may not consider managing outsourcing contracts to be part of their job is essential.

The two chapters dedicated to this have a common thread running through them – communication. Perhaps in recognition of the importance of communication, the book’s closing chapter is dedicated to a number of methods of communicating with staff and users, from open days and training sessions to simply keeping the lines of communication open. This book certainly communicates everything an information professional needs to address in the complex issue of outsourcing. If your organisation is looking to outsource, then you should contract-in this title.

Information World Review, April 2005, p. 31


Sheila Pantry OBE BA FCLIP manages an independent information services consultancy and electronic publishing business, including websites. She has had a long and varied career in information management in a range of industry sectors, and also in government as Head of Information Services for the Health and Safety Executive. She specializes in worldwide occupational health and safety information and is an experienced trainer, writer, editor, lecturer and conference organiser.

Peter Griffiths is an independent information specialist with particular interest in library and information services, knowledge management and wider aspects of information management in the public sector. He was previously Head of Information at the Home Office, a role that included being head of profession for librarians, information scientists and latterly records managers across the Home Office group. He is an experienced trainer, writer and speaker. Peter is currently 2009 President of CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.

Available at a 20% discount to Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals members.
Remember to quote your Membership Number if claiming the discount.
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