Monday, January 15, 2007


Globally Outsourcing Information Work?

Someone on the librarian stay-at-home-parents group just pointed to this craigslist Bangalore ad for a telecommuting "highly proficient and experienced researcher." From the ad, it looks like they're looking for someone to do work for U.S. companies (they ask for rates in USD and require fluency in English).

Not only did I not know there was a craigslist Bangalore, I never thought much about the global outsourcing of information work. I see a lot of articles about global outsourcing in IT periodicals, but don't think I've ever seen this come up in the library literature. (Am I just not reading the right journals?) Poking around the international craigslist communities, it seems these sorts of listings are, if not abundant, at least somewhat common.

Is this something that's becoming more common? Are we going to be having similar discussions to the (sometimes heated) IT conversations over the next few years?

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Outsourcing was a part of the library literature in the late 90's. I remember doing an assignment on the pros and cons of outsourcing cataloguing, processing, and other work when in library school in Australia.

From what I recall, the fundamental arguments were the same as they are in any industry.
Fiona - I should have been more clear -- I've read about outsourcing or privatizing of library/information work, but not about outsourcing this type of work to other countries.
It's likely enough. The historical argument for the original MLS was that it would offer cheap (read: female) catalogers for all of the "stand alone" libraries ... I don't think the pure economic argument has changed.

That said, I think we do need to work on explaining our "value add" better. Many type of library work require f2f assessments. Reference interviews are hard to do at a remote. Building trust is even harder.
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