Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Both of these books demonstrate what a demanding and interesting area library acquisitions is. The librarian must understand the business world of the publishers and vendors and be able to deal with these profit‐making enterprises to secure value for money and excellent service for their library.
As well as dealing with the commercial world the acquisitions librarian must run an efficient operation, manage the budget, deal with the computer system and more recently cope with licensing contracts.
Understanding the Business of Library Acquisitions provides a thoughtful and very readable collection of essays dealing with these topics. The book examines the publishing industry and the library supply business and considers the role of libraries as the third point in the triangle. This is followed by items on the bread and butter of acquisitions – approval plans, serial subscriptions – plus discussion of some of the trickier aspects – antiquarian and grey literature.
Finally, there are some thoughts on management issues, including staffing, finance and the ethical considerations involved in these various relationships. The last chapter on licensing gives some useful advice on the relatively new and certainly complex area of digital publishing and licensing.
The book gives an interesting summary of the current library acquisitions scene which experienced professionals will find themselves nodding in agreement with.
The second book, The RFP Process deals more specifically with the procurement of library supply services through competitive tender. It is based on the experience of the University of New Mexico General Library in Albuquerque, USA. This fact highlights the main weakness of the book from the point of view of readers outside the USA.
Although many of the principles of competitive tender are similar, the detail of the law differs between countries. Given that this is a very detailed “How to” guide to the process this could cause quite serious confusion.
With this caveat aside, it is a very well presented book. Each stage of the request for proposal (RFP) process is carefully described, from planning, to award of contract and subsequent evaluation of the successful vendor’s performance.
In the final section the vendor’s view of the process is gained through a round table discussion with representatives of several of the leading suppliers.
Although increasing use of competitive tendering may have changed the once slightly cosy relationship between library and supplier, it still makes sense to build good working relationships between the two parties. So, it is interesting to read the vendors’ response to questions such as “How could librarians better negotiate contracts with vendors?” and “What is the single most important element of a good RFP?”.
This book could provide a useful checklist for experienced practitioners but it is most suitable for those librarians new to the acquisitions area. For example, the appendixes which give a sample timetable, covering letter and proposal form, are very prescriptive and assume no knowledge on the part of the reader.
Of the two books, Understanding the Business of Library Acquisitions provides a more interesting, discursive read for the experienced acquisitions librarian. The RFP Process is a good, first step guide to the American tendering process.