Following on from the presentation on the 19 November by Fiona Brown (see also blog post 25 November 2013), Cindy Martin Allens Library Site Coordinator has contributed her notes on the event.
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Research on Outsourcing libraries in the UK
By Cindy Martin
Fiona Brown has undertaken a Masters study on outsourcing of legal process in Law Firms and was invited to speak to ALLA NSW on the 19th Nov 2013 at Gilbert and Tobin. Fiona has focused on the UK experience and there are many interesting observations she has made in this area. I am really pleased to see a body of work produced, and know that it was not easily obtained because of so many contentious factors and the sensitive nature of this business as it was evolving. It is valuable I think for Australia to have this insight and be aware of some of the experiences and given that one provider has been establishing itself here. I have provided some points below and if you feel the need to read the entire work it is available from the Monash Uni.
The research focus is where a complete library has been outsourced in the UK. US is a bit more of a coexisting model 68% outsourcing eg. Cataloguing, procurement..
Fiona’s research has been governed by university standards meeting privacy requirements and engaged in qualitative analysis
Transcripts have been analysed for common and different issues, also used software program that assessed for themes across the research
10 of the Top 50 UK companies are in the business of total outsourcing (including other business support services)
Some companies brought services back in- house
Evaluserve not operating in Australia
Integreon now staffed in Sydney and looking to grow, also have a focus on legal process and knowledge management, have Indian office support services
Current awareness, procurement….
Contracts range from annual to 10years
Medium to large eg 45% had single partner law firms. Less than 10 % of law firm libraries were outsourced totally
Where did it come from? A few law firms saw themselves all doing the same thing and they wanted a business service that could rationalise this.
Reasons for outsourcing
Improving efficiency and gaining more services for the library including more access to skills of wider group of librarians
Accessing business intelligence services
Some wanted extended hours of service from libraries
Outsourcing non-strategic services was intended to remove responsibility for time spent understanding support services and instead shift this to the experts who can concentrate on making this business work and the lawyers can just focus on Client work as this is their strategic focus
While law firms may have expressed dissatisfaction with the scale of the library service and their ability to pay for the library service that they wanted there was no dissatisfaction with the library staff as individuals or professionals.
Law firms were looking for business intelligence research
Law firms really wanted to share and rationalise costs
Law firms didn’t want to reduce the service anymore through the cuts but outsourcing would provide a better service
The library was not considered as strategically competitive and for this reason would be a candidate for outsourcing
More resources and services for their library budget
More leverage for budget
They were interested in electronic sources savings and reduce escalating costs, reducing management , PD issues,
Was this realised ?
No shared libraries were established
No inter library loans could be accessed by the providers
Librarians who worked for the providers were cut out of professional networks
No shared electronic resources arrangements were negotiated with publishers – publishers did not agree to these arrangements
Has caused some divide amongst law librarians in some areas, but in other areas there is still collaboration amongst the library community in London.
Staff costs were reduced
Modest saving on Hardcopy
Modest to zero savings on electronic resources
Some reduced management costs
Were satisfied with specialist quality of service
Responses from Lawyers and Partners that were interviewed on their views on libraries
You’re best customers are trainees sent to the library – higher level lawyers in the organisation were not seen to be utilising services
Lawyers are protecting their team and pa’s and so other services were targeted in the name of rationalisation
Libraries in the study were seen as basic retrieval services and not embedded in deep research and other service provisions
Outsourcing models only brings benefits if more law firms get on board in hope that there will be more negotiating power and print collection and staff sharing
Outsourcing are rethinking cost and changing the cost structure to user pays to look at ways to remain financially viable as the financial gains have not been realised by the providers
Outsourcing providers acknowledge their IT systems are not supporting the services they provide and they have to look at improving this to gain customers and financial benefits.
Standardization of service will enable the outcomes to be more achievable and efficient but all the customers have very tailored solutions.