Outsourcing for Effective Resource Management in Nigerian University Libraries

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the late 2008 and early 2009, the people of Nigeria and its government officials came to term with the reality of global economic meltdown and its inevitable implications for the nation's economy. Global economic problems have brought down the price of crude oil, the mainstay of the nation's economy, and have led to the depreciation of the Nigerian currency, the naira, against the US dollar. All these have taken their toll on spending pattern in the ministries, departments, and agencies, who are now adopting belt-tightening measures in order to survive within the limited available resources.

Gross federally collectible revenue for 2009 was put at 5.13 trillion naira, while in 2008, it was 5.87 trillion naira. The average budget price of crude oil was $45 per barrel (pb). It was $59 for 2008. The daily forecast production was 2.292 million barrels per day (mbpd) as against 2.45 mbpd for 2008. The daily oil production and price estimate are lower in the current year. This in essence means that the revenue from gas and oil would be reduced by 1.79 trillion naira, which is 61 per cent. From December 2008 to date, the Nigerian naira has devalued against the US dollar by 36 percent (Omoigui-Okauru, 2009).The future is still gloomy.

As a result, Nigerian federally funded universities have been faced with shrinking financial resources allocated to them by the government, coupled with the need to increase and expand facilities in response to increasing enrolment, the introduction of new courses, and increases in faculty and other administrative, technical, and support staff. There is also the need to improve the quality of service delivery by the university libraries. The dwindling resources of the universities also affect the university libraries. In efforts to cut costs, improve general efficiency, and meet increasing demands for accountability, one option being considered is the outsourcing of some services.

Outsourcing is a controversial issue with redundancy implications for library staff. Outsourcing is a frequently misused and misunderstood term and some disagreement can be traced to different definitions (Appleby, 2000). Lund (1997) used "outsourcing" to mean that someone who is not on the university payroll manages the whole or part of a university library function, employing their own staff and assets. Outsourcing describes how services are obtained. Although the term and its practice have been more prevalent in business, library outsourcing has recently become a persistent and controversial topic among librarians. Outsourcing is a process in which a company delegates some in-house operations and processes to a third party. It is a contracting transaction through which one company purchases services from another, keeping ultimate responsibility for the underlying processes.

Literature Review

Before the days of online catalogues, librarians bought catalogue card sets from the Library of Congress. Cards are now purchased and copied from databases like OCLC for a majority of new materials (Appleby, 2000). When replacing card catalogues with online catalogues, libraries have hired contractors to convert their records to digital format. Vendors of automation services can be contracted to provide online access to library collections.

Making Decisions about Outsourcing

As with any planning process, there are things to be considered before making major changes. The first step is to assess what is happening in the organization. Reappraise the library's mission and goals. Look at the cost of processes in terms of human and material resources, review long term practices, and consider whether objectives are being met efficiently.

There are issues common to traditional library practices that may indicate the need to consider outsourcing, including high costs, low productivity, poor management, and lack of communication (Appleby, 2000). …