Case Study: How to Approach Library Consolidation
Libraries can provide competitive services even under budget constraints. A New York libraries consortium sharing services considered further cost-saving consolidation options.
The Southeastern New York Library Resources Council is considering the merging of its services with other regional libraries to evolve and meet changing public demands more effectively.
According to the Center for Governmental Research, The Southeastern New York Library Resources Council has recently reduced funding by 20 percent and cut staff numbers, making it difficult to service the public easily while also adopting new technology and methodologies changing the library climate. As a result, a shared services strategy with other libraries in the region has emerged as a leading solution to budgetary restrictions and growing public demands.
Opting For Teamwork
By working together, the Council hopes each library can offer unique ideas for leveraging technology to make effective use of available resources. Shared services already implemented through regional partnerships include:
- Interlibary loans
- Digital technology
- Automation resources
- Best practices collaboration
The shared services strategy aims to increase access to services for local residents as well as enhance literacy programs at each location through modern technology and education resources, without eliminating each organization’s autonomy and taking into account variations in funding options based on geographic location.
The Council is looking at a spectrum of options on how to improve regional library performance ranging from maintaining the status quo to completely consolidating all participating locations and services including:
- Shared Services The Council would reach out to a variety of organizations in the community to form on-going partnerships for sharing resources and services to benefit all affected residents. Infrastructure and professional development programs would be merged and shared to reduce costs and increase capabilities.
- Administrative Consolidation After creating a shared services strategy, the Council could also merge administrative demands and personnel to reduce overhead costs and burdens. With a simplified administrative structure, resources and manpower could be freed up for other development projects to keep the libraries on the cutting edge of literacy programs.
- Functional Consolidation This option would create a more formal collaboration between the Council and its partners, while each organization would maintain its own board of trustees and governance. Any duplicate services or resources would be consolidated between the parties to lower costs, while specialty capabilities would be maintained by the originating organization.
- Full Consolidation Completely merging the personnel, assets and services of the Council with partners is an option of great interest. If all services and resources are shared, the Council hopes to free up assets that could be redirected toward new programs and technology deployments.
Richard Larson from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently discussed the growing popularity of shared services strategies in the library sector. Larson recommends university libraries consider partnering with other nearby academic libraries to share resources and reduce costs.
A warehouse could hold all physical resources, allowing libraries to move into smaller buildings that house more technology-related assets to meet immediate demands of modern students. Paying for less square footage, coupled with shared physical resources, would mount to significant savings.