Yesterday I co-presented the Keynote “debate” at the Ark  Conference on Best Practices &amp Managenent Strategies for Law Firm Libraries and Information Centers. The program was moderated by  Marsha Pront,  Librarian and Senior Consultant from   Integrated Management Services. My debate partner Ron Friedmann who blogs at Prisim Legal and is a VP at outsourcing provider  Integreon, pointed out that  there has been an upward trend in professional services firms choosing to outsource “non-core” functions. Prior to the conference, I conducted a survey of attendees and asked them to consider which functions or services provided by their library/knowledge center were “core” to the law firm.

The definition: For purposes of the survey we defined a core business activity as one that supports the strategic value of either the product delivered to the firm’s clients or is core to the growth and development of the business.

The chart below can be used as an informal benchmark for assessing how the various functions in your organization might be viewed by firm management.

Respondents overwhelmingly viewed research and research related activities as more core to the business of law than most back office activities.This makes complete sense, since research is core to the practice of law. Research Management was rated as core by 100% of the respondents.  There are clear exceptions in both research and technical servicers. The only “technical services” function which received a high “core” rating was the acquisitions function. Document retrieval which is a research function, was viewed as “non-core” by about half the respondernts. But many libraries are ahead of the curve here. Many of the functions which were rated as non-core have been completely or partially out-sourced for years.  These functions include, loose-leaf filing, shelving, cataloging, document retrieval and subscription management. The important takeaway here is that  in the current economic environment, Library and Knowledge Services leaders would be well served to be prepared for a discussion on outsourcing by considering the range of core and non-core services they provide.