Using a purchase request form to track trends / Anne Champagne, Art Institute of Chicago

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?

2 thoughts on “Using a purchase request form to track trends / Anne Champagne, Art Institute of Chicago

  1. Watson Library has had links on the online catalog and Portal page for purchase suggestions for some time now for all manner of library patron. (We still accept emails, phone calls, pages torn out of catalogs, what have you.) Suggestions account for less than 5% of all orders placed (3.8% this fiscal year). In addition to the boilerplate information, museum staff is asked whether the purchase is for Watson Library or a departmental library and whether they would like the purchase delivered once it has been processed. (Even though the default checkoff box is “No”, they have learned to check “Yes” nearly every time.) We do not ask for a justification but we do review each request for collection scope. Any questions are referred to the requestor via email. In many instances the request preempts a selection we were likely to have made anyway.

    Tracking of requests is through our ILS. We record the requestor’s name in the order record and assign the selector “REQ” to each order for statistical purposes. (We also record purchase requests forwarded by our Interlibrary Services staff.) If we locate an ebook version, we send a standard email indicating that we will purchase the ebook if we don’t hear an objection.

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