Friday, September 24, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Acquisitions team

A library must keep itself up-to-date with the latest books, journals, databases and special collections in order to maintain relevancy to its audiences. This month's Behind the Scenes blog post focuses on the Acquisitions team, who manage many aspects of selection, negotiation with suppliers/publishers, trials, and invoicing for many of the Library's purchases - which numbers around 200 items per month.

The team, consisting of four members, is part of the Collection Management and Operations department, and is overseen by Aileen Cook, Acquisitions Team Leader. They deal most extensively with serials (Chris Hassan, Senior Library Assistant - Serials, 900 titles of which are current); databases and journal packages (Victoria Sinclair, E-Resources Librarian), select books for the History of Medicine collection, and contribute to the accessioning of web archives as well as the Medicine and Society and student loan collections.

In order to describe the work the team does, it is useful to trace the cycle of purchasing new content. Under the collections listed above, the Acquisitions team will refer to supplier or publisher lists and catalogues of new titles, carry out online searches, and field any (very welcome) requests from other staff members. When it comes to special collections - rare books, manuscripts, archives, moving image and sound, paintings, ephemera and Asian collections - the selection will be made by the special collection librarians, but the ordering and purchasing will be administered by the Acquisitions team (specifically Rosemarie Nief, Assistant Librarian - Acquisitions).

If the purchase is an electronic resource, such as a package of electronic journals or a database, the Acquisitions team will set up a short-term trial before deciding to purchase (see current resources on trial). These trials are available to Library members. If an e-resource passes muster, the team will then negotiate with the suppliers.

Negotiation is a particular challenge for the team, as they make a concerted effort to gain value for money. Most publishers are profit-making, so readers are obliged to register as Library members in order to view electronic content. As Aileen Cook explains, "Once we identify an appropriate e-resource, we try to get the best deal with suppliers, and, where possible, remote access for readers. This includes renewals as well as new subscriptions."

The Wellcome Library belongs to a consortia that benefits from JISC Collections negotiating power. The JISC negotiates with the publishers, and then sub-licenses e-collections to the member libraries. Some of these subscriptions are subsidised, or even free. In this way, the Library is able to benefit from a wider range of resources.

Databases, in particular, are expensive, and the Library is keen to promote them, provide training, and receive feedback. Particularly when a new resources is in "trial mode", the team welcomes comments and suggestions from our readers (this can be done using our online form).

Once the resources have been purchased, details are passed to the cataloguers to ensure that access for readers is quickly achieved. All e-resources are accessed via the Library catalogue. The team also liaise with Systems Support Services, who manage the access rights for groups of users, and keep the websites up-to-date with new offerings.

 
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