For many years, the library has provided a form on the museum’s intranet for staff to make purchase requests. It was conceived as a convenience to our users, but most found it more expedient to make their requests informally, either through casual conversation or email. However, a few years ago when our acquisitions budget was cut, we decided to require that all purchase requests be submitted using the form. Our objective was to learn which exhibitions, publications, and object research were generating demand for additional library resources. Then, armed with this information, we would be able to target firm ordering, contract or expand our approval plans as necessary, and solicit funding to support long-term projects.
Although initially we heard some grumbling about how painfully bureaucratic the form was, it has since become routine and we are grateful for the cooperation and collegiality of the curatorial and research staff. The form itself is very simple: requestors must identify themselves (name, department, position), provide basic bibliographic info describing what they want us to buy, and give a brief rationale for the purchase. It’s this last bit of information that has proved to be most useful as we assess how our budget is being spent. For example, now it’s possible to determine how much additional purchasing we have made to support a specific exhibition, we have learned the degree to which the museum’s foray into online publishing has impacted our budget, and we have noted an increase in purchases requests that are in sync with new areas of object acquisition.
We’re interested in learning how other libraries are tracking trends and compiling acquisitions data. Anyone?