Library purchasing consortia in the UK: activity, benefits and good practice.
- Publisher: Capital Planning Information
Following a brief introduction in Section 1, Section 2 sets out the operational context of library purchasing consortia. A range of key factors have shaped recent developments in the four LIS sectors under consideration (FE, HE, health and public libraries); some have exerted a common influence over all (e.g. information technology, European Commission purchasing directives, new central government, decline in bookfunds); some are sector-specific (e.g. purchasing arrangements, regional administrative frameworks, collaborative partnerships). The structure and markets of the book and periodical publishing industry in the UK are reviewed, with attention paid to historical as well as more recent practice that has had an impact on library supply. Although each component of the LIS purchasing consortia jigsaw displays individual characteristics that have evolved as a response to its own environment, the thread that links them together is constant change.\ud \ud Section 3 presents the results of a survey of identified library purchasing consortia in the four library sectors. It treats common themes of relevance to all consortia arising from information gathered by seminar input, questionnaire and interview. These include models of consortium operation, membership and governance, ‘typical’ composition of consortia in each sector, and links to analogous practice in other library sectors. Common features of the tendering and contract management process are elicited and attention paid to any contribution of procurement professionals. Finally, levels of consortium expenditure and cost savings are estimated from the published statistical record, which readily demonstrate in financial terms the efficiency of the consortial purchase model for all types of library in the United Kingdom.\ud \ud Section 4 presents the results of a survey of suppliers to libraries in the United Kingdom of books and periodicals, the two sectors most commonly represented in current contracts of library purchasing consortia. It sets out in some detail the operating context governing the highly segmented activities of library booksellers, as well as that pertaining to periodicals suppliers (also known as subscription agents). Detailed responses to questions on the effects of library purchasing consortia on suppliers of both materials have been gathered by questionnaire survey and selected follow-up interviews. Results are presented and analysed according to supply sector with attention given to the tendering process, current contracts under way, cross-sectoral clientele, and advantages and inhibitors of consortia supply. Further responses are reported on issues of how consortia have affected suppliers’ volume of trade, operating margins and market stability as perceived in their own business, the library supply sector and the publishing industry. Finally, overall conclusions are drawn and projections made as to future implications for both types of library suppliers.\ud \ud Section 5 synthesises findings, details enabling and inhibiting factors for consortia formation and models of best practice amongst consortia. The scope for cross-sectoral collaboration is discussed and found to be limited at present. Pointers are given for future activity.\ud
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