24 August 2006 | Paul Snell
Libraries are planning to save 25 per cent on the cost of books with the "biggest shake-up of procurement in 40 years".
Libraries in England currently spend around £85 million annually on books, and are under pressure from central government to make savings. The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) hopes the new model, developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, will make purchasing more efficient and cost-effective and reduce spend by £22 million.
The plan will shift procurement activity away from the 149 library authorities and hand their purchasing responsibilities to a series of regional hubs. These hubs would handle selection, ordering, buying, and delivery of books to library authorities.
PwC estimates that aggregated buying power, and use by hubs of staff with market expertise, should contribute to £10 million savings.
Another proposal is to set up an electronic marketplace to give the hubs access to information on prices, availability and delivery times. Preferred suppliers who have a place on a framework contract will update information on the system.
Each library authority now employs an average of seven people, and running the service more efficiently could result in job losses.
Sarah Wilkie, libraries policy adviser at the MLA, told SM
this would be the biggest shake-up of libraries procurement in the past 40 years. She said the intention was to move some back-office library staff to frontline roles, but that everyone might not still be needed.
Wilkie said the next challenge was to persuade local authorities to sign up to the new model, because it could not be imposed.
The proposals are expected to be introduced in 2008.
In the next few months, the MLA will publish a timetable for the proposals and set up a project board to oversee implementation of the plans.