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    How An Order Becomes a Book
    by Daille Pettit, Acquisitions/Collections Librarian

    In preparation for a training session the Acquisitions Department will offer for library staff and departmental library representatives in August, below are some frequently asked questions about how an order eventually becomes a book, video, DVD, or other item that is added to our collection.  (Pictured are Acquisitions staff members Jennifer Short, Mark Purington, Lisa Osgood, and Acquisitions/Collections Librarian Daille Pettit.)

    • I’m waiting for a book or other item, and I’d like to have it.  When I go into Leo to check on it, the message says it’s being processed.  What does that mean?

    When a book (or other item such as a video) actually arrives in the library, but is not ready to go on the shelf, the status of the item is changed from “ordered” to “being processed.”  The item could be in acquisitions being checked in, in cataloging, or at the last stop, processing, where call number labels and security strips are added to the book. 

    • I’m a student at JMU, and I’ll like to suggest that the library order a particular book, video, or DVD.  Can I do so?

    Yes, you can.  Please direct your inquiries to the Acquisitions/Collections librarian.  She will direct your request to the relevant departments.

    • Why is there such a long time from the final deadline for placing orders (February) until the end of the fiscal year (June 30th)?

    Since we are a Virginia state institution, all funds allocated to the library have to be expended by the end of the fiscal year (June 30th).  JMU cannot process invoices to pay for books or other items (i.e., videotapes, DVDs, musical scores, etc.) until the items have actually been received in the library.  The average amount of time it takes to receive orders is six to eight weeks.  Invoicing, closing the books, etc. adds more time to the process. 

    • Why can’t orders be submitted past the final deadline date?

    There has to be a cut-off point because of the problems noted in the previous question explaining the deadline date of February.  If orders are submitted in March, they’ll be held until July 1st of the next fiscal year.  These orders will then be “charged” to the relevant department’s allocation for the new fiscal year – not the previous one.

    • It seems to take forever before an item is actually on the shelf in the library once it’s been ordered.  I don’t understand why it takes so long.

    Once the order is processed by the acquisitions staff, the library has to wait for the book to arrive (sometimes as long as eight weeks depending upon the publisher).  The book then has to be cataloged, and it may or may not need some original cataloging. It may go to the bindery (more explanation on binding is provided in a following question).   Finally the book is labeled and sent to circulation to put on the shelf.  If the book is out of print or unavailable when the order is placed, more time may be added until the acquisitions staff can locate the book.  Also, if an item is ordered during a deadline period, the acquisitions staff may be swamped with orders. 

    • Why don’t we order books directly from Amazon?  Their prices are low.

    The books just seem cheaper.  We have a contract with Blackwell North America.  We get a discount from them based on the volume of what’s ordered.  In addition, we have procedures in place to pay their invoices.  We need to generate a purchase order for every book or item we order.  Amazon is not set up for that type of ordering.  When we order from Amazon, we need to use a corporate credit card which is a labor-intensive process.  What we may save on the cheaper price from Amazon we lose by the extra staff time it takes – and that means that the staff is not available to process other orders.

    • What does it mean on the financial reports that the funds have been encumbered?

    When the acquisitions department submits an order, the amount of that order is entered into Leo.  However, the funds will not actually be expended until the item is received, and the library’s fiscal technician processes the invoice for payment.  The projected cost of that item is then “encumbered” or obligated.  The book or other item might actually end up costing more or less, may be out of print, etc., so the actual amount spent may not be what was encumbered.

    • Why do we order paperbacks instead of hardbacks?

    Some books do not get enough use to warrant spending the extra money that the hardback may cost.  Other departments’ books may get a lot of use or have a long shelf life (for example, history or literature).  The quality of binding is generally better than the average hardbound book, plus it is actually cheaper for us to order the paperback and then have it bound by the bindery.  The staff automatically sends certain department’s books to the bindery.  See the binding policy at: http://staffweb.lib.jmu.edu/ts/acq/binding.htm

    However, the liaison and the faculty representative have the right to have any book bound.  They just need to mark the book accordingly.

    • We never received something that was ordered last year.  What happened to it?

    These items become “claims.”  The acquisitions department then has to go to the publisher and find out why the item wasn’t received.  If it’s still not available from the publisher, acquisitions will try to find it.  Most claims are filled by actually phoning the publisher.  In this day of “phone tag” and automated phone answering systems, this can become a very lengthy process.

    • What is an approval plan, and what are the benefits of one?

    In an approval plan, the library receives books according to certain subject parameters and other criteria set up by an academic department.  The librarians and the faculty representatives can either accept or reject the book.  If the approval plan is set up properly, it’s a wonderful timesaver for everyone – staff, librarians, and the acquisitions department.  The books received should be ones we’d want to purchase anyway, and then the lengthy ordering process is avoided.  Librarians and faculty have the chance to actually examine the book so that they can judge if it’s relevant to their departments.  If the book isn’t appropriate, it’s easy to return it.  But the goal is to have a return rate of less than 10% which is close to what Carrier Library now has.

    Everyone in the library and all faculty representatives are invited to join in the training class that will be held in August to discuss acquisition procedures.  More information will be distributed this summer on the date and time of the training session.

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