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Re: [BKARTS] standing orders



>>>Maria Pisano asked: ... enlighten me on the subject of "standing orders" with special collections libraries.

I don't know how much I can "enlighten" in regard to the practice generally, but in my experience standing orders with a variety of vendors, including presses and book artists, are not uncommonly used by libraries. They do have both pros and cons for both buyer and seller.  Some curators are quite fond of them, others are not.

From the library's point of view they tend to reduce price (generally at least 15% to as much as 30%) and they assure "completeness" of a sub-collection without the need to constantly monitor the horizon for new work. This can be difficult to maintain when staff responsibilities are changing or when, as is inevitable, staff members themselves change. In our case, I believe our Acquisitions Department ships a document that is not quite a contract but an order to "ship until notified to desist."

If the number of works expected in a single fiscal year is great, or if the individual works are unusually expensive, the order may be to "inform us when ready to ship next item" -- with an understanding that if not all (or at least a high percentage of) offered work is accepted, then discounts are not to be expected. This at least gives the institution an opportunity to consider each acquisition as it is actually available against current budget and perhaps to negotiate payment terms, e.g., to defer all or partial payment to another fiscal year.

The down side is that each standing order creams something off the available budget and thereby reduces your flexibility in responding to new or unexpected opportunities. Collecting interests also change over time, as may typical price or quality of work, so you might find yourself taking in work that you really would not buy if you hadn't made something of a commitment to the vendor and consequently built up an "investment" in their work.

From the seller's side, a clutch of standing orders assures a predictable amount of timely income and may make it possible to more accurately estimate the number of copies of a work that can be sold (and therefore to create). On the one hand you may be able to reduce outlays or take on larger projects; on the other, even keeping the discount in mind, you may be able to space your work to stabilize income -- and you recover some time and energy that must otherwise go to marketing.

Whether individuals or institutions who place standing orders receive items not otherwise distributed is a matter of marketing strategy and customer satisfaction.  Some vendors use it primarily as a means of "greasing the wheel" to get a standing order decision, others may make no promise but send the odd item as a vehicle to re-introduce themselves, to accent a new, perhaps experimental, direction, or simply as a gesture of appreciation.

While it is probably true in general that previous buyers are the best prospects for a new work, institutional standing orders tend to ratchet the relationship a notch, if only through sheer institutional inertia.

Cordially --- Sid Huttner
The University of Iowa Libraries
<sid-huttner@xxxxxxxxx>

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