Industry Insights: Library Systems & Services
Government Product News (GPN): How do libraries impact communities today and into the future?
Todd Frager (TF): Libraries have long been community anchors for learning and enrichment. Today, with the right leadership, libraries are evolving into springboards for economic and workforce development. They play an even larger role as more services are offered outside library walls – both physically and virtually, strong partnerships are formed with business and education and co-location begins with other community services. Libraries have the power to be one of the most valuable community assets.
GPN: What should local government professionals know about optimizing libraries?
TF: Like many other government services, public libraries are successfully outsourced. The outsourcing model offers municipalities real savings and enables library staff to focus on patron service rather than back office tasks and management, measurably improving service to the community. Further, becoming part of a consortium of outsourced libraries provides access to additional collections, equipment and technology, scores of programs and a network of library professionals. The economies of scale and ability to affordably provide access and excellent services are unmatched.
GPN: What about your model is often misunderstood?
TF: Outsourcing is a partnership model, not an ownership model. There is no transfer of community assets. All facilities, equipment, collections, technology, furnishings and public property continue to be owned by the community.
Strategic decision making, planning and governance always involve library stakeholders. Successful libraries are contingent upon maintenance of strong partnership with city/county government officials, Library Board of Trustees, Friends of the Library, Library Foundations, Library Volunteers, local community organizations and all relevant stakeholders.
Library outsourcing makes sense for many types of communities. The model is pertinent for community leaders, who want to improve patron experience and implement optimal practices to ensure library growth and vitality. Many communities outsource library operations simply to provide equal or enhanced services while improving cost efficiency.
Outsourced libraries are run by qualified professionals. With high value placed on the commitment and expertise that an advanced library degree represents, it is a requirement that all library leadership hold master’s degrees in library science.
Access is the same at an outsourced library as any public library; anyone can visit, check out books and materials, use computers and technology and participate in programs—all for free.
Q: How does your model impact patrons and the community?
A: Patrons notice improvements – extended hours, more materials and programs, well managed facilities and attentive staff. Beyond that, most patrons are not aware that library operations have been outsourced and that is intentional. We strongly believe in maintaining local staff and local relevance in collections and programming. Our goal is to deliver excellent service to ensure that the library is a strong community asset.
Todd Frager is chief financial officer and chief operations officer of Library Systems & Services. Mr. Frager has extensive experience in financial and strategic planning, operations, financial analysis and business expansion. As chief financial officer at Calvert Education Services in Baltimore, Md., he led a turnaround focused on debt reduction and private financing. Mr. Frager has executive experience in the education industry with technology firms Blackboard, Inc., Moodlerooms and Spectrum K-12 Solutions.