Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Ideal Vendor

I’m proceeding with the online course on Technical Services. I’ve just finished the section on Acquisitions (or will when I finish this assignment).

We were to visit the websites of at least two library book vendors and notice 1. The type of information they provide; 2. The value-added services and features; 3. Anything else that struck us as interesting and/or desirable.

Then we were to visit the websites of at least two regular retail Internet book and audiovisual sellers and notice 1. Value-added features they provide; 2. How the information is organized; 3. Other observations.

One thing that’s pretty obvious is that Amazon sells a lot more than books. Kind of like Wal-Mart or Super Stop & Shop – they sell at least some of just about everything. Who knows? Maybe I'll end up buying my next car from Amazon :-)

Now I’m to make a list of the features, special services, or other factors that I would want from the "ideal" vendor or source for books and audiovisual items for a library like mine.

It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in acquisitions, and I don't work in a "real" library, so my answers are all theoretical.

A lot of my expectations of a vendor would depend on the circumstances of my library. Do I have adequate staff? What kind of equipment does my Technical Services Department have? Am I part of a consortium or do I have a stand-alone ILS? The less my library has, the more I will want from my vendor. (Note to administrators: You have to pay one way or the other.)

If I’m not part of a consortium, or did not have access to OCLC or other large database, I’d likely want bibliographic records for the items I purchased. If I had minimal staff, I’d probably want my items processed (mylar book jackets, property stamps, spine labels, barcodes, etc.).

Another option would be a third-party company for cataloging and processing. Perhaps it’s because I worked for just such a company, but my impression is that a library is able to get very specific customization from such an entity. If a bibliographic record does not already exist, they will create one. My experience with most vendors is that if they cannot find an existing bib record, the library does not receive one. Also, there are fewer existing bib records for audiovisual materials than for books, yet the need for those records is just as great. How would I get bib records for "odd" items?

Regardless of cataloging and processing, I’d want an online ordering system that coordinated with my catalog so that my patrons could see what was on order as well as what my library owned. I’d want to be able to keep track of the status of my items (shipped, on backorder, out of stock, etc.). I’d want to be able to keep track of what I’d already spent, what I’d encumbered, and be able to allot funds to different accounts if I had multiple branches. It's unlikely that I'd be able to purchase 100% of the items I wanted from a single vendor, so I'd need to be able to incorporate those other purchases into the accounting system.

Technical Services does not exist in a vacuum. I want materials that I order to arrive quickly, be findable in the library catalog and to look neat and clean on the library shelves so that patrons will want to check them out and take them home.

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