Outsourcing Checklist


From the oral report to ALA Council presented by Steven L. Herb, IFC chair:

“...I'd like to point you to exhibit 3, which is the outsourcing checklist that we promised when last we met. Council directed us to look into the matter of the outsourcing task force and its effect on intellectual freedom issues, which we did, and reported on at [1999 Annual Conference]. And in that report, we said we would take a first stab, as IFC, and add a checklist regarding intellectual freedom issues across the broad spectrum of outsourcing considerations. This is that draft. It is not meant by any means to be a final draft. It's included in our report for your information and also for us to push toward other groups who may want to review it, add to it as it develops.”


1999-2000 CD#19.3
(2000 Midwinter Meeting)

Outsourcing Checklist

At the 1999 Midwinter Meeting, the ALA Outsourcing Task Force presented Outsourcing and Privatization in American Libraries (CD#24) to the Executive Board.

The task force recommended that ALA reaffirm the following fundamental values in the context of discussing outsourcing and privatization of library services. These values include:

  • That libraries are an essential public good and are fundamental institutions in democratic societies;
  • That intellectual freedom is a basic democratic privilege and that ALA defends the right of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely, as guaranteed by the First Amendment; and
  • That any outsourcing activities in libraries need to be compatible with ALA advocacy of policies that support libraries as democratic institutions serving people of all ages, income levels and races, and providing the range of information resources needed to live, learn, govern, and work.

The Intellectual Freedom Committee reviewed outsourcing in light of the Library Bill of Rights and identified the following checklist of issues that need attention in any consideration of, or contracting for outside provision of services or performance of functions for the library. This checklist targets librarians, library and government officials who are developing such contracts, and vendors who are parties to the contracts.

  • Legal and Governance Issues
    __Retain legal accountability in elected or appointed positions
    __Honor Freedom of Information Act requests
    __Abide by open meeting laws
    __Protect the rights of individuals to express their opinions about library resources and services
    __Affirm the right and responsibility of parents and guardians to guide their own children’s use of the library
  • Privacy and Confidentiality Safeguards
    __Safeguard databases and files containing patron information
    __Restrict access to patron information
    __Instruct patrons how to protect their privacy
    __Prohibit use of patron information for non-library purposes
  • Contract Performance Measures
    __Ensure statistics are not used to reduce services to the disadvantaged
    __Ensure that controversy and complaints are not used as measures of service
    __Ensure collection development does not rely solely on circulation data
  • Collections Accountability
    __Guarantee that users have access to personnel with the authority to make decisions
    __Protect intellectual freedom in selection, reconsideration, and deselection of library materials or resources
    __Monitor and protect the widest possible range of viewpoints and diversity in collection development within the mission of the institution
    __Acknowledge that ultimate responsibility for selection, reconsideration, and access cannot be legally delegated to a vendor
  • Access Considerations
    __Catalog, abstract, and index resources so that users can find relevant content
  • Workforce Educated in Intellectual Freedom Principles
    __Include intellectual freedom knowledge as a hiring criterion
    __State intellectual freedom implications during job orientation
    __Provide continuing education on the application of intellectual freedom principles
  • Workplace Intellectual Freedom Issues
    __Specify employees’ First Amendment, intellectual freedom, and privacy rights
    __Address and preserve those employee rights and protections against liability
    __Adopt and abide by the Library Bill of Rights and the ALA Code of Ethics

ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, January 19, 2000