Jag Venugopal's Blog

September 27, 2010

Outsourcing libraries

Filed under: Project Management — Jag @ 9:09 pm

The New York Times reports on “anger as a private company takes over libraries“. It is understandable if people who’ve been employed by cities and towns in libraries, and have enjoyed a secure, stable job without especially difficult work, are upset at the move.

However, in a larger sense, the anger is misplaced; libraries do not exist to provide secure employment. They exist to lend books and associated media to patrons. And, if a private company can better manage a library to reduce cost, and improve the availability of material, that is a change to be welcomed by the general population. Libraries cost money: in space, books and staff. A private company that manages multiple libraries will be better placed to achieve a balance between lending paper books, and lending electronically, so people can read on their iPads or laptops. With their broader expertise, for-profit companies can make library content more relevant — less books on repairing valve radios dating back from the 1920’s and more books on self-education and how to find a job in today’s market.

With increasing digitization of books. the libraries of the future will vastly expand their collections, without increasing the number of books they own. They can make the latest books available to readers, while charging towns and cities a “per-view” fee, rather than the full cost of acquiring the book, maintaining it through its lifetime and then disposing of it. And best of all, in this scenario, there is no need for chasing down deadbeat borrowers. Once a borrowing period has expired, the book can be easily deleted from the borrower’s eReader.


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