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Christine Mackenzie Manager Library Services Brisbane City Council Qld Received March 2000

A major recommendation of a 1999 workplace redesign of the Brisbane City Council Library Service (BCCLS) was supplier aided selection and shelf ready stock. Discussed are the reasons why BCCLS is outsourcing its technical services. These reasons include cost efficiencies and a redefinition of core business derived from, in part, a visioning workshop. Edited version of a paper presented to the QPLA conference Maroochydore March 2000

Brisbane City Council Library Services (BCCLS) undertook a workplace redesign in the second half of 1999, with full implementation from July. The key elements of the design included

* customer service enhancements

* regionalisation

* future directions

One of the major recommendations of the redesign was to move to supplier aided selection and shelf ready stock. This paper discusses the reasons why BCCLS has moved to outsourcing of technical services. There is a continual need to look for cost efficiencies in any library service, and the costs associated with acquiring and processing materials is an area that is able to be influenced by library management. When this need is placed in the context of a redefinition of core business derived from various inputs including a visioning workshop, paradigm shifts become obvious.

There have been three main drivers of the move to outsourcing

* the outcomes of a visioning workshop held in early 1998. We invited Beverly Forner from the ACT which was then reinventing its library services; Eric Wainwright, who discussed the impact of the new technologies and convergence on our business; and Brian Cook, who told us we would need to reskill and who had introduced outsourcing of technical services at Griffith University. We also had input from the divisional managers of our area

* the workplace redesign undertaken in the second half of 1998 which was informed by the visioning workshop

* cost efficiencies

The enabling technologies that have allowed easy connectivity are

* delivery TCP/IP provides universal access

* ecommerce Web applications supercede previous partial attempts at electronic selection and acquisition

With library suppliers accessing the BCCLS library management system, it is the first area of council to be using B2B commerce.


BCCLS has a vision, developed by its staff. The desired future is

* the best public library service in Australia in providing recreation, culture and a gateway to information and knowledge

* excellent customer service through committed and capable staff who share their enthusiasm for books and reading with their borrowers

* libraries that are vibrant community hubs which reflect our community's diverse interest and needs

* embracing new technologies and encouraging the community to feel comfortable living in the information age through provision of access and education

The library as gateway

The paradigm of libraries is continuing to shift from a repository of hard copy information to a gateway to information from any source, and towards the delivery of information services through electronic channels. The importance of libraries as community places is also recognised, spaces where the community can interact, browse, read, be entertained or relax. These two roles of providing information anywhere at anytime and providing a community place have shaped forward thinking.

To make the dream come true, well managed resources are needed. In a national report on UK library services Due for renewal the acquisition of stock was singled out as showing a wide variation in the total resources that authorities employ in this activity. Such differences between authorities primarily reflect differences in the purchase price, the cost of servicing the new stock and in the staff effort that is used to acquire it. According to the report, library authorities can take steps to reduce all of these costs. BCCLS also recognised that this was an area where efficiencies could be achieved.

Workplace redesign

The workplace redesign report provided findings for the analysis of Library Services' product and service delivery and key processes.

The achievements of the redesign are

Customer service enhancements

Web based requests Faster delivery of library materials More responsive staff and services

Shelf ready materials

The total product, cataloguing and processing to match agreed cost, quality and time frames

Supplier aided selection

Industry intelligence informing community profiles

Reference and information emphasised

All libraries offer reference services Reference services available via the internet 24x7

Technology standardised and rationalised

Common platforms to reduce complexity

Localised decision making

eg branch input into opening hours

Team based work structures

Empowered staff working in high performance teams Flatter structure

Improved materials handling

Floating collection substantially reducing stock movements

Marketing and promotion better focused

Citywide coordination

Training coordinated

Training audits and training needs analysis conducted

The new design includes a 'hub and spoke' structure which meets the needs of a large library service by devolving control, promoting team based work practices, harnessing the benefits of technology in service of customer information needs and providing strong support for branch operations.

Shelf ready stock

One of the major benefits and efficiencies identified by the design was the provision of shelf ready stock. Staffing expenditure and shelf ready analysis demonstrated a significant benefit could be gained from redesigning processes. The staffing proposal of the workplace redesign was underpinned by the business direction to shelf ready materials, allowing a number of staff who were performing stock processing functions to be redeployed into the branch structure. Savings of over 30 per cent by moving to shelf ready materials were estimated.

As well as the cost efficiencies in moving to shelf ready stock more efficiencies in the speed of delivery of materials to the branches were identified. The supplier providing a seamless service from ordering through cataloguing, adding to the library database, processing and delivering, achieves considerable timesaving. Coupled with this is the shift to supplier aided selection, where the bulk of purchasing is done via profile or standing orders. We are more effectively anticipating customer needs through use of surveys and identifying main drivers for demand by environmental scanning, including newspaper reviews bookshop booklists and television shows. This ensures the best chance of getting potential 'hits' into the library ready for the demand. It is pleasing that already there is feedback from branches that books reviewed in the weekend papers are in the system.

Achievements since July 1999 include

* increased speed of book supply (down to five days) with best sellers often arriving before or on publication date, instead of weeks or months later

* fewer and shorter waiting lists

* purchase of a larger proportion of more popular ie high use material

* web requesting for customers, enabling customer requests to be satisfied in days rather than months

* promotional partnerships with cinemas and theatres eg with QPAT's production of The hobbit increases demand and raises our profile

The relationship sought and being achieved with major suppliers is one of partnership. This is the secret of BCCLS's success--it is committed to ensuring that both the selection and processing aims are achieved.

The driver of customer service is paramount at Brisbane City Council, including its library service. All restructuring and reengineering has been predicated on the assumption that it will provide better customer service and responsiveness. The wider implication of not having a technical services section is that Library Services is now solely a customer service branch. There is no longer a back room mentality, and the expectation is that staff spend 80 per cent of their working day in direct customer service. These 200 equivalent full time staff are supported by 20 branch support staff, who have responsibility for four areas: customer and community; people and learning; systems and processes; and finance and administration. Branch support staff have moved from library headquarters, situated in Fortitude Valley, to the Brisbane City Council's Administrative Centre in Anne Street. This, too, is an important cultural shift, as it mainstreams libraries into the organisation most effectively.

The old technical services section has been reinvented to become Systems and Processes. Its new responsibilities include

* multifunctional access

* hyperlinked catalogues

* system gateways

* network standards and architecture

* metadata

* image databases

* streaming technologies

It is looking to add value to the catalogue, and for ways to build a hybrid library.


The main advantages of supplier aided selection and supplier cataloguing and processing is the seamless process that delivers significant timesaving. There are two staff members within the Systems and Processes group who are responsible for ensuring the quality and timeliness of the product delivered to the branches. After four months all suppliers are consistently meeting the key performance indicators (KPIs). The Collection Team is responsible for monitoring profile ordering closely to ensure that material arriving at the branches matches expressed needs. Library Services has introduced process management systems that identify all processes undertaken. This has meant looking at selection processes and end to end processing, starting with the requirements for covering and finishing with financial accountabilities.

Before the tender was let, processing was reassessed and pared down as much as possible. We consulted with branch staff, and banned any branch individuality. This was important from an efficiency point of view and also because of the introduction of a floating collection which means books are not returned to an owning branch but stay at the branch to which the borrower has returned them. Requirements were simplified by looking at each step and asking 'why are we doing this?' A fairly minimalist model that has eliminated unnecessary processes has been reached.

BCCLS has not yet moved to shelf ready periodicals, mainly because the Dynix serials module is not used. However when a new library management system is implemented, we will be looking to utilise our periodicals supplier to add holdings. Magazines are received already covered, which has improved supply times for them.


There are a number of issues that need to be addressed when considering the introduction of outsourcing.

Security and authentication

ecommerce solutions concerning the integrity of the database, authentication and encryption mitigate much of the risk

Loss of control

This seems to be a real fear for librarians. With robust QA processes, however, the quality of the database is maintained

Skill base of staff

New fields such as knowledge management make use of librarians' skills. Keeping professional skills in cataloguing and classifying information in house is an area BCCLS still needs to address

Authority control

Through the Customer Service Agreement with suppliers, this is monitored

Once it's gone, it's gone

True, and you cannot go back! Through partnership arrangements with suppliers, the risks are shared

We have realistically assessed these issues, and have no doubt that on balance the right choices have been made. In discussions with library suppliers, the general feeling was that both supplier aided selection and supplier processing are concepts whose time has come. The market has proved to be just ready for the implementation, including the electronic ordering, remote system access and general acceptance of the concept. A number of library suppliers have agreed with us, and have joined a partnership to ensure the best outcome for them, and for us.

Plans include continually looking for ways of being more efficient and effective in service delivery, implementing new library management system, conducting process management reviews and seeking increased customer input.

Christine Mackenzie is Manager Library Services Brisbane City Council, Australia's largest local authority. She was formerly Manager - Library and Information Access Services, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, Victoria. Christine has held positions in the state libraries of Victoria and Western Australia, and in various public libraries in Victoria as well as undertaking a job exchange to Baltimore County Public Library, Maryland USA. She has been president of the Alia Public Libraries Section (Victorian Group) vice president of the Alia Victorian Branch, president of Viclink (Victoria's public library network), vice president of the Aima Board and a member of the Library Board of Victoria's library network committee and the networking for all Victorians working group. Address: Library Services 19 Wandoo Street Fortitude Valley Qld 4006 tel(07)34030112 fax(07)34030101
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:contracting out technical services
Author:Mackenzie, Christine
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2000

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