The Complete Guide to Acquisitions Management. 2nd ed. By Frances C. Wilkinson, Linda K. Lewis, and Rebecca L. Lubas. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2015. 208 p. $60.00 softcover (ISBN 978-1-61069-713-2).

The second edition of The Complete Guide to Acquisitions Management is an update to the first edition, which was published in 2003. Since then, the market in which an acquisition librarian operates has seen many changes. New technological developments affecting business models, products, and services have had an impact in the management and operation of today’s library acquisitions department. The same holds true today as it did in 2003: “Acquisitions librarians must continue to learn and remain flexible in order to meet the needs of their libraries and customers” (xiv).

This book is organized in two ways. First, it is a guide book that any library school student or practicing librarian interested in acquisitions would find useful. It is interspersed with practical knowledge and contains an abundance of definitions and resources in the glossary and the appendixes. Second, as an update to its first edition, it describes how new technology has had an impact on each of the areas of acquisitions.

The purpose and organization of acquisitions departments are presented in the context of the role that acquisitions plays within the organization. “The mission and goals of the acquisitions operation should align with those of the library” (1). The role of acquisitions is blending more with the roles of the other units in the library. This blending is caused by technological developments and their applications. “Acquisitions has morphed from meaning exclusively the purchase and/or receiving of physical materials to including the licensing and obtaining access to electronic content” (1).

Acquisitions librarians are encouraged to understand the impacts that new technologies and that recent economic pressures have had on the publishing industry, as these impacts will affect their policies and workflows. Wilkinson, Lewis, and Lubas explain that economic pressures caused by the recent recession and changes in the marketplace have eroded profit margins for publishers. According to publishers, the effort to maximize profit is for sustainability. However, there is a feeling in the market that the only interest for publishers is in making as much money as fast as possible. Wilkinson, Lewis, and Lubas navigate through these issues and explore the wide variety of pricing models as they affect acquisitions, library funding and budgets, and library collections and access.

Acquisitions librarians also need to understand the physical acquisition systems in which they operate. These systems can range from a stand-alone system to a part of a more encompassing integrated library system. It is important to understand the features and functions in an acquisitions system to utilize them in the most efficient way. Through the explanation of these aspects of an integrated acquisitions system, Wilkinson, Lewis, and Lubas walk us through how it can be a tool to perform the daily tasks of acquisitions, provide information to other library units, address the technological developments of electronic resources, and to accomplish the fiscal tracking and reporting that the institution requires.

Understanding the acquisition of monographic content sets a solid foundation for acquisition librarians and students looking to enter the field. “In some ways, all other purchasing models flow from book buying. The book is a basic unit of content” (51). Buying a book may sound like a simple task, but the acquisition process of purchasing monographic content is driven by many decisions. These decisions lay in the different purchasing models offered by the many vendors who compete for the libraries’ business. From firm ordering to approval plans, from print books to streaming media, Wilkinson, Lewis, and Lubas discuss what goes into these decisions by clearly defining the steps in the acquisitions processes and even some of the legal issues involved in acquiring different media formats.

After understanding the acquisition of monographic resources, Wilkinson, Lewis, and Lubas take us into the complex world of acquiring continuing and electronic resources. “The Internet and availability of electronic content have changed the course of library collections” (79). As a majority of the acquisitions budget is spent on these recurring purchases, we are offered a significant presentation of the different avenues of continuing resources acquisition and the impacts of each one. This includes the maintenance involved in the print and electronic serials acquisition, the knowledge required to work with the systems that can track and manage continuing resources, the economics of a world in transition to more digitized content but where print is still produced, and a discussion of different pricing models.

Wilkinson, Lewis, and Lubas give a sound overview of the complicated world of licensing for electronic resources. Institutional lawyers, purchasing officers, and librarians are all involved in the reviewing and negotiating process. It is increasingly important to understand the clauses that appear in licenses, to have an understanding of fair use and copyright law, and to know your library’s goals to ensure that you obtain licenses that meet your needs.

“Acquisitions librarians are required both legally and professionally to safeguard the budgets over which they have control and to assure themselves that dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently.”1 This requires librarians to take a more formal approach in acquisitions and lead a more competitive process to obtain vendor products and services, a formalized process known as the Request for Proposal (RFP). According to the authors, the RFP provides for an objective evaluation of different solutions where service is just as much a consideration as price. The planning, participants, timeline, document, evaluation, and awarding of a contract are all clearly described. This is vital knowledge for anyone looking to enter or move forward in the profession.

Aside from the mechanics of acquisitions, Wilkinson, Lewis, and Lubas appropriately include a chapter on professional ethics. “Our need for ethical awareness has grown as the practice of librarianship has become more professional, our roles and services more complex, and information technologies faster and more pervasive.”2 Acquisitions librarians have control over a large portion of the budget, input into purchases with a large dollar value as well as input into vendor selection, and increasing complexity in negotiating licenses and contracts. So, the chapter moves forward with the discussion of values and ethics as it pertains to the decisions that affect our personal and professional decisions. Wilkinson, Lewis, and Lubus state that “such discussions may help teach those new to the field about the core philosophy of the profession and may illuminate values for those who are more experienced.”3 Notably, the chapter includes a rigorous analysis of the ALCTS Acquisitions section’s Statement on Principles and Standards of Acquisitions Practice offering greater specificity for ethical guidelines for an acquisitions librarian.

Lastly, Wilkinson, Lewis, and Lubas look at how acquisitions has the opportunity to play a major role in improving the user experience in the library. The technological changes that have been presented throughout the book emphasize that the work of acquisitions is connected with other library operations to improve the discovery, delivery, and preservation of our collections. “Articulating how you are part of the plan and how you are incorporating new directions and efforts to complement and further the part will help make your department a recognized, vital part of the library” (167). This book can stand alone as a complete guide to library acquisitions management or each chapter can stand alone addressing a specific topic. As such, this book is recommended for students in LIS masters programs, as well as current and future acquisitions librarians looking to develop or enhance skills in acquisitions management.—Lee Sochay (sochayle@msu.edu), Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

References

  1. Karen E. Cargill, “Vendor Evaluation,” in Understanding the Business of Library Acquisitions, 2nd ed., edited by Karen A. Schmidt. (Chicago: American Library Association, 1999), 94.
  2. Jean Preer, Library Ethics (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2008), xiii.
  3. Rob Richards, “Biz of Acq-Stewardship, Partnership, Self-Understanding: An Exploration of Values in Acquisitions Work,” Against the Grain 12, no. 3 (2000): 88.

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