for any forward movement on the acquisitions included knowing or
determining the following:
What: Acquisitions personnel were not familiar with the data content
descriptors. Such personnel are accustomed to using ISBNs, ISSNs, or
other unique identifiers to find and order the correct material. It is critical
in a data set order that personnel review every detail, and it is best if
those making the initial request provide clear written details about the
data set requested. More information is better as vendors have the
flexibility to sell data by the year, by a geographic boundary, by subject,
or other parameters unique to that data set. Names assigned to data sets
by the vendor are different from other library titles, and a lack of clarity
may result in orders for the wrong data set. The format of the data is also
a key piece of information as the data must be useable, meaning that it
both must be ordered and delivered in the way that researchers expect to
access the data. For example, data may be delivered via FTP retrieval in
XML or on a loaned flash drive in ASCII. Successful acquisition required
clarifying and verifying availability and suitability of delivery options
prior to finalizing orders.
From Whom: At a very basic level, any vendor must be entered into a
payables system in order to pay an order—with different requirements
for foreign and domestic vendors, those who are individuals, and those
that are institutions. In the case of acquiring data sets, many of the
vendors are not used to working with institutions. Sellers of small data
are often small associations or commercial ventures with limited staff to
assist in business operations. Further complications, such as vendors
lacking secure sites for credit card payments while simultaneously
requiring credit card payments, complicate transactions already saddled
with state or institutional procurement requirements, limited experience
by the seller with institutional licensing, and limited experience by the
buyer with this sort of transaction. Good communication is essential for
a successful transaction as well as some thoughtful preparation in asking
about options for any part of the process.
How: Libraries work within their institutional rules and guidelines in
handling business transactions. Private institutions may have more
flexibility in that many government procurement requirements do not
RLI 276
15
Collecting Small Data
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C O N T I N U E D
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SEPTEMBER 2011 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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