Outsourcing Collection Development

One of the optional readings for my Info & Society class dealt with the idea of outsourcing a library’s collection development.  This doesn’t necessarily mean sending the selection process overseas.  It simply means that a part (or the majority) of the collection development is performed by a company outside the library. (http://www.libraryjournal.com/index.asp?layout=articlePrint&articleID=CA6471081)

I can see how this idea came about, after all library budgets are continually shrinking, while the costs associated with developing and cataloging a collection are rising.  Libraries need to think creatively about ways they can cut costs while still maintaining a high level of customer service.  But is outsourcing collection development the answer? 

I don’t know if it is the answer for every library, but for a select few it may be the best thing since sliced bread.  Using an outside service for things like mass market paperbacks, popular fiction, and new-release dvds will free up a library’s collection development team and allow them focus on fine tuning the collection for the community.  The outside service might also help keep the library’s collection balanced, so that too much money isn’t spent on one topic or genre.

Unfortunately, outsourcing collection development might not work as well for some community libraries.  One librarian in the article noted that a “best seller” might not circulate very well at their library, while an obscure title will have a holds queue a mile long.  Another noted that Republican titles are very popular, but they can’t stock ONLY these titles because the library wouldn’t be representing the entire community.  These little nuances are something outside companies may not understand, which may frustrate a library and its community.

I believe that as these programs become easier to tailor, their use will probably rise.  Do you think that this is a good thing for libraries or their communities?  Why?

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