Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

No Real Competition: Compulsory Competitive Tendering in Victorian Regional Library Corporations

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

No Real Competition: Compulsory Competitive Tendering in Victorian Regional Library Corporations

Article excerpt

With the passing of the Local government (competitive tendering) act 1994 Victoria's public library sector became the first in the world to be exposed to compulsory competitive tendering (CCT). As a consequence, between 1996 and 1999, a large number of Victorian public library services were tendered out and subsequently managed on a contractual basis. The contract based model of governance was unique to Victoria and has not been replicated on the same scale anywhere else in the world. Competition for the contracts was almost nonexistent, with no interest from the public sector and little interest in existing library services bidding for contracts in neighbouring areas. The lack of a competitive market meant that the CCT process was ultimately ineffective in terms of financial criteria. However it left a profound and potentially lasting imprint on the structure and management of Victoria's public libraries. Edited and shortened version of a Monash University Bachelor of Information Management and Systems honours thesis `Managing public library operations in a contracted environment: reflections on the impact of compulsory competitive tendering in Victoria's regional library corporations 1994-1999'

Refereed article

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The local government reform initiatives introduced by the Victorian state government from 1993 left a profound and potentially lasting imprint upon Victoria's public library sector. First, the amalgamation process between October 1993 and December 1994 led to a two thirds reduction in the number of local government councils, from 210 to 78. As a result, many of the amalgamated councils had a number of library services falling within their boundaries. The

process of integrating these individual services, either as single municipality services or in combination with other councils as regional library corporations, had a significant impact on the overall structure of the state's public library system.

Secondly, the introduction of the Local government (competitive tendering) act 1994 meant that the Victorian public library sector became the first in the world to be exposed to compulsory competitive tendering (CCT).

Competitive tendering had been used by public libraries as an internal management strategy for many years. However, as a result of the CCT legislation, councils were using the tendering process for their public library services, calling for whole of service tender bids and then entering into a contractual relationship with the successful respondent.

This had a profound impact upon the internal structure and management of individual public library services, many of which had just been formed following the amalgamation process.

Study aims

This study was designed to develop a deeper understanding of the key issues associated with the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering in the public library sector, particularly in relation to regional library services ie services spanning two or more council municipalities. Such an evaluation is timely given that, upon entering office in 1999, the Victorian Labor government repealed the mandated targets for competitive tendering and replaced it with a noncompetitive approach to local government reform termed `best value'. As a consequence, the five year period between 1994 and 1999 may represent the only time in which the public library services are managed on a contractual basis.

In particular, the aim of the study was to document a detailed set of reflections from key respondents about the following broad questions

* what were the most significant changes resulting from the contract based approach to managing public library operations?

* what were the key challenges faced in managing public libraries on a contractual basis?

* what are some of the potential long term consequences for the way public library services will be managed in the future? …

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