An approval plan is an arrangement between a library and a dealer that results in the library receiving regular shipments of new titles selected by the dealer, based on a profile of library collection interests prepared by the library. The agreement enables the library to return what it decides not to buy. Approval plans are most common in academic libraries but are also found in public libraries, particularly for special topics or special formats. Like individuals enrolling in book clubs, libraries using approval plans must be diligent in reviewing the shipments and returning unwanted titles in a timely matter. When considering approval plans, libraries need to also consider the staff time required to administer the plan.
According to Audrey Eaglen, author of Buying Books, A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians ( 2nd Edition, Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2000), "Lease plans are useful for one purpose only, and that is to save the library from having to buy certain books. Leased books are usually titles that are likely to be in demand - but only for a relatively short time." She expalins that a lease plan enables a library to lease several copies of a book and return them for partial credit once the demand has lessened but warns that lease plans are more costly than outright purchases. (p110)
Standing orders are special kinds of orders in which the publisher is told to automatically send a new edition of a work when it is published. They differ from subscriptions in that standing orders usually refer to items that are published only once a year or less. Standing orders are especially useful in purchasing standard reference materials that are published annually. For example, many libraries have standing orders to one or more general almanacs. Major library vendors, like Ingram and Baker and Taylor, offer customers standing orders in specific genres such as inspirational fiction.
There are distinct differences between the hardcover trade edition and the book club edition of the same title. The hardcover trade edition is much preferred by libraries as it is designed to withstand significant use. Book club editions are usually a little smaller than a regular hardcover book and are printed on lesser quality paper. The covers and special features are also sometimes changed. Donated book club editions may be handy as additional copies but trade editions should be purchased.
Many libraries do not have the funds to buy multiple copies of high demand titles or to buy titles in multiple formats (print, audio, large print, etc.) Libraries that do have the funds need to have clear policies describing how the need for multiple copies/formats is determined. Libraries that do not have the funds also need clear policies concerning duplicate copies.
The replacement issue is important. For example, does the library replace any book in print that has been lost or damaged – even if it contains dated material? Does it attempt to replace out-of-print titles? Again, clear policy is the key.
New formats are constantly emerging (databases, e-books, downloadable audiobooks, playaways, etc). It is wise to have a specific decision-making process on new formats that explains to patrons why a particular format is not available or not yet available. The reasons may include price, fragility of the format, or equipment required for the format.
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