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Serials Vendor Transitions, or How Do We Get There From Here?

Coordinator:
Sandra Hurd, EBSCO Information Services
Presenters:
Arlene Hanerfeld, University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Kittie Henderson, EBSCO Academic Representative
Katherine Johnson, California Institute of Technology
Merrill Smith, EBSCO Account Services Manager


The panelists discussed the steps to a successful serials vendor transition, while attempting to remain vendor neutral. The basic premise was that a transition is not a single large event, but rather a series of steps for both the library and the vendor. There is no absolutely correct way to handle a transition, but there are crucial mistakes that can be made. The handout for this program, which was included in the IUG Conference Notebook, provides a helpful start-to-finish outline of the transition process. Below are points that were particularly emphasized by the panelists.

  1. The library needs to take a good, honest look at its timeline and what can reasonably be accomplished. The timeline may revolve around the time of year that you need to pay your invoice. For January starts you need to be at the end of the transition process by mid-October. If the library has several different start dates, it may affect the timeline. You don’t want to lose July-Aug-Sept starts. The library should regard the serials transition process as a major project.
  2. The library must provide the new vendor with a clean, accurate list of titles that are being transferred along with the latest payment data. Can good data be pulled from your local system (have you kept up with title changes, etc.)? Can your old vendor provide you with accurate data? Multiple or partial lists may only serve to confuse the new vendor. Memberships, combined subscriptions, and multiple copies require special attention.
  3. Libraries select vendors in different ways. Some states require that you go out on bid. Vendors have standard proposals that they can customize. They also do RFPs and RFIs. Because of the time involved, vendors don’t appreciate being sent 10-15 page RFPs, if they don’t have a realistic chance of getting the business. The library needs to determine which services are truly needed.
  4. As far as pricing goes, vendors receive a discount or commission from the publisher in exchange for handling its titles. The discount varies according to publisher and discipline. For example, since law publishers tend to pay no commission, a law library will have a higher service charge than a public library.
  5. Once the vendor selection is made, the library must choose whether to create new order records for their titles or to continue using existing order records. This depends on the library’s desire to have a clean line to track the new vendor’s performance (create new records) or to maintain all of the payment history (use existing records). In either case, the library must provide their order record numbers along with their list of titles.
  6. Most vendors load a large list of the library’s titles as a pro forma or dummy invoice. They need the title, the order record number, the ISSN, and the last payment information. The new vendor will attempt to clean up start dates that have gotten out of whack. They must clearly understand how your invoicing works. III has a 500-line maximum for invoices.
  7. When the library receives the pro forma, the staff should carefully check it. Some libraries go over the pro forma line by line. Aside from providing the vendor with an accurate list of titles, this is probably the most crucial step in the transition process. In addition to title changes, cessations, and fund code problems, you may discover changes in packages or memberships from what the old vendor supplied. Working out an effective method for handling order records for memberships requires some thought. In some cases vendors may need to do two or even three pro formas to get exactly what the library wants. Ask questions up front. This is no time to be timid!
  8. Publishers need 60-90 days to enter a new order, so allow for this in your planning. If you go beyond October, it is hard to get January starts. Some publishers will not backstart orders. Why do the publishers require such long lead times in this age of electronic ordering? A lot of scholarly journals are handled out of academic offices that are not automated. EBSCO works with about 49,000 publishers and of that number only 110 take orders electronically.
  9. After all the necessary adjustments have been made, the library can load the invoice. The vendor information (including the vendor title #) must also be converted in the order and check-in records. Some vendors provide barcode templates to accomplish this. Expect some cleanup for membership records with this method. III has a new enhancement to the Serials Invoice Interface that can update check-in records with the Vendor ID#. This can be used along with rapid updating to make the conversion easier.
  10. After the check-in records have been changed to reflect the new vendor information, handling outstanding claims and prepays from the old vendor can be tricky. New vendors are often willing to accept the old vendor’s claims as part of the transition, as long as they are aware of what the library is doing. Devise a closeout plan for the old vendor. You may get duplicate copies at the beginning of the year. Ignore renewal notices, because no vendor can get them all stopped.
  11. Address changes can cause big problems. If duplicates result, send the labels to the new vendor and they will try to get this cleared up. Sometimes publishers cannot find their records to change. If you’re going to do an address change, do not make dummy 4-digit extensions to your zip code!


Recorded by: David Badertscher, Washington and Lee University

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