The library media specialist must follow established policies and procedures for the purchase of equipment, materials, services - - anything needed.

money on treeWhat company will give me the most for my money?

What do I do if I get the wrong DVD?

Should I use individual publishers or go with a jobber? What's a jobber?

These are common questions about acquisitions. Service is the key to acquisition. You want the most for your money, and you also want the materials to arrive in a timely fashion.

People assume that selection and acquisition are the same thing. However they are two separate tasks.

Selection involves deciding what is to be purchased.

Acquisition is the process by which the item is physically secured.

Coordination is needed between selection and acuisition. Equipment and materials are acquired through the following means:

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What is involved with acquisition?

Acquisition involves a number of tasks. First, develop a knowledge of the suppliers and select a jobber. A positive relationship with your vendors can be very important. Next, process requests and monitor the expenditures. Finally, maintain clear records of your purchases. You'll want to acquire materials quickly and keep the process simple.

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What are the steps in acquisition?

Once you have an understanding of your overall budget plan, you know how much money is available in different accounts, you know what purchases are needed, then you can begin to order items. You will use titles such as vendor, jobber, supplier, sales representative, and publisher. Occasionally a sales representative from a vendor/supplier may visit your facility, asking to meet with you and “pitch” their product line. You may want to plan before hand, procedures for handling “drop-in” and appointment visits.

More often, you will have already done your online and offline homework. You can usually locate needed supplies, equipment, and materials at commercial websites. For major items, you may be able to view photos and read detailed product specifications. Also see if you can find unbiased product reviews for major items. If you have doubts and concerns, use professional resources (listserv, discussion forums, blogs) to network with fellow SLMSs asking for specific information, recommendations, and experience.

Search and Verify. Make certain that you don't already own the item. You also need to see if anyone else has the item. For example, it might be part of a classroom collection that you could borrow. Or, it might be available at another school or the public library. Do you need to invest in your own copy?

Select a Source. Where will you buy this item? It's easiest to select a jobber and buy all your materials from one source. However, there are times when it may be easier and less expensive to buy items locally. For example you may use Baker and Taylor for most orders, but popular items or duplicates may be purchased at the local Sam's Club. However if you buy locally, keep in mind that you may not be getting quality, library bindings on your books. Also remember that it saves time when you order materials pre-processed and get an electronic file is ready to place in your automated cataloging system.

Order and Track the Item. Maintain a file to keep track of what materials are being consider and where the materials are in the acquisition process. It's easy to simply add a line to your consideration file indicating that the item has been ordered.

In the example below, the supplier, order date, and received date are listed. Some people add a column to show when items are back-ordered. When items have been received, but sure to adjust your budget spreadsheet.


In the Spring, it's a good idea to write "DO NOT BACK ORDER" items, so you don't have to deal with items that are still on order during the summer.

Some people maintain even more categories in their electronic records. For example, an item may be in one of five places in the acquisition process:

  1. Item received and ready for technical processing
  2. Item ordered, but not yet received (encumbered funds)
  3. Item waiting to be ordered
  4. Item on a wish list for later purchase
  5. Standing orders, automatically "ordered"

Process Items. When the items are received, be sure to check the packing list against the order. Be sure you have received the correct items. Finally, complete the technical processing of the item. For collection materials, technical processing can include labeling, barcoding, repackaging, etc. Go to Acquiring, Cataloging, and Processing Materials at Multimedia Seeds for more information. Equipment process steps may involve inventory records, applying indentification numbers/markings, assembly and security (locked to a cart?), etc.

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What is involved in making purchases?

What company should you use? Consider if you can purchase locally at a competitive price. For some major items the service and support that accompany a purchase are as critical as the purchased items. For example, some jobbers pay shipping while others may not, some publishers offer free processing while others charge for the service. Decisions of where to purchase must include the total package: item, shipping, processing if applicable, and any other available support/services needed.

Consider where you can purchase “like” items on your wants/needs list. You will not be able to buy everything from one source, but the extreme of buying each item from the original producer/manufacturer/publisher is too time consuming. One jobber’s catalog of materials will not totally match anothers. Precious time would be wasted if you tried to compare prices of all books to get the “best buy” every order. Therefore, it is important to learn about several jobbers and their specific services, discounts, and processing fees before preparing a book order purchase.  If you are new to the process, you might want to place larger orders with a few reputable places to get started rather than spend large amounts of time determining the reputation and services of many different sources.

Placing a request for an item or group of items is generally completed using a requisition and/or purchase order (P.O.). One request is used for one source however items may be grouped if they are all coming from the same business.

The documentation varies from school to school. Most schools now have forms available in a Word processing format. However here are the basic steps:

  1. Develop a spreadsheet containing the items to be ordered.
  2. Complete a Purchase Order.
  3. Arrange for any required signatures such as your principal.
  4. Upon receipt of items, match packing list to the purchase order.

Purchase Reminders

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What are pushers or peddlers?

Producers, publishers, and distributors are sometimes called "pushers" or peddlers. They want you to buy their products. They're important to know about because they can often undermine your collection development plan. Publisher advertising may influence you to buy materials you don't need. They may advertise limited qualities and/or great prices. In some cases, publishers even fix reviews. The "trade" includes everyone involved with the creation and dissemination of all formats (i.e. books, videos, databases, audio's) of media including the writer, printer, editor, and salespeople.

The publisher supplies the capital and editorial assistance in creating a book. They have the following roles:

The editor works for the publisher and has the following jobs:

There are many different types of publishers. A few are listed below:

Although you may think that publishers have a nice life, they also have their problems. Economic concerns related to production costs and identifying the market of materials is an issue. Distribution of materials is also expensive. Do they sell direct or through a distributor? Copyright infringement is a particular problem for video and software publishers.

eye means readExplore Publishers.

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What are jobbers and when should they be used?

Jobbers buy books from major publishers and resell them to libraries and bookstores at a discount. They can provide a great service for a school library media center. Instead of writing to 10 different publishers, you write to one jobber. You get one box, one invoice, and make one payment. In general, jobbers provide the following services:

Look for what is included with each item. The advantage of a jobber is that all of your items will come with the same level of technical processing:

When you're looking for a jobber, ask the following questions.

Also, find out how they would answer common questions and learn about their relationship with their publishers:

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What are the popular jobbers?

The following list contains the most popular jobbers and vendors.

eye means readExplore Library Supply Vendors.
Explore Library Jobbers.

The larger the school, the more likely they are to use a jobber. If you are in a large school district the vendor may be chosen at the district level. For example, your entire system might use Follett or Baker and Taylor. In some cases, working through this larger system can save you money.

There are also serial jobbers such as Ebsco that provide subscriptions to print and database periodicals. Some jobbers have special plans for book purchases.

Many of the jobbers provide suggested booklists and even list review sources. For example, Brodart maintains online, recommended booklists with reviews and pricing information. Forms can even be downloaded as PDF files or spreadsheets.

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What should be considered in selecting a jobber?

When choosing a jobber, you need to remember that there are expectations on both sides. These expectations are:

What library media centers expect from jobbers

What jobbers expect from library media centers

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What are other purchase options?

In addition to publishers and jobbers, you may also purchase materials through retail outlets. Their prices are generally higher, but you'll get quick, personal service. Sometimes you can work out discounts with a local bookstore that are as good as jobber prices. Be careful, though. As you know, most library media professional have bibliomania.

Bibliomania is an excessive fondness for acquiring and possessing books. If you get too close to your bookstore, you may never get back to work. The same can happen with online buying. It's very addictive.

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How should gifts and donations be handled?

Donations are a wonderful surprise for a library media center. However, gifts can cause problems if they aren't handled carefully. Gifts for birthdays, as memorials, and from organizations are common. It's important to have a policy regarding gifts.

Ethical choices are sometimes involved when accepting gifts. Naturally the careful handling and expenditure of public funds is present; however, other issues often surface or reappear. An example from 1980s is still in place in many schools. Many secondary schools were offered the installation of a “free” video network and television sets by the Whittle Corporation (Channel One). School library media personnel were often involved in the decision-making process. A large number of school systems opted to accept the equipment, but some communities turned the “gift” down. They did not want their students exposed to the advertising that was embedded in the programming or questioned the use of school time for program viewing.

Develop clear guidelines. For example, you have the right to weed materials. The biggest problem comes when you want to weed something that was donated in memory of a "loved one." Use the following guidelines for handling gifts:

In some cases, donations of items are not helpful. Consider the time needed to handle the item. Some people advocate accepting and thanking persons for their contribution, but also making it clear that your center may not keep the donation. Many have devleoped a form for donated items.

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Check Your Understanding

Explore Library Jobbers. Compare and contrast 2 jobbers. Which would you choose? Why?

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Make It Real

book shelvesAsk a library media specialist about their acquisition process.

Do they use a jobber?

Do they use local bookstores?


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