Insourcing as outsourcing

So, I’ve talked some about the move toward Systemness in SUNY, and Potsdam’s role as one of the first six campuses exploring shared administrative services. It’s a thing, and it’s a reality of my worklife: how can we effectively share administrative work with our colleagues at SUNY Canton to the mutual benefit of both institutions with our unique goals and challenges? Some days, it’s fun. Other days it’s hard. Yet others, it’s both, and neither.

But today’s challenge is an information-gathering one: I need your help.

We’re looking at ways to outsource SUNY Canton’s technical services work to SUNY Potsdam — insourcing within the university as outsourcing? And Michelle Currier, my counterpart at Canton, and I are trying to build a cost-recovery model that is not only competitive in the vendor-driven marketplace for cataloging services but also realistic in terms of what it will cost SUNY Potsdam in time and resources to do this cataloging work. So here’s my question:

Do you know of libraries that are doing cataloging and processing for other libraries on a pay-per-transaction model? If so, who are they?

My fear is that we’re actually breaking trail here — I haven’t found much yet, other than a few people saying “We used to, but we lost money” or “We do that, but the State just pays us a lump sum” (informative but not helpful), and a bunch of “we do that for ILL” (too different to be helpful). My hope is that there are a bunch of libraries doing this, quietly and without much fanfare. Help me turn the spotlight on these creative solutions!


  1. I don’t know if this is quite what you’re looking for but a consortium that I used to work for had an arrangement where three of its member libraries did the original cataloguing for the group in exchange for reduced consortium membership fees. If that is of interest I can get into specifics.


  2. I don’t, though there were conversations before my arrival about several small libraries sharing a single cataloger. Where I would predict success is if you and Canton have, or are willing to adopt, the same or at least similar cataloging workflows, practices, and dependencies. Or failing that, a chief cataloger enthusiastic enough about the vision to make (in church pastor talk) a “yoked call” work despite dissimilarities.


  3. I’m not aware of libraries that are doing this on a pay-per-item basis, but there are certainly vendor-based services that work this way. We make good use of one at MPOW.


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