4 Acquisitions

Acquisitions is concerned with obtaining selected items, in coordination with the Collections Development department, and providing payment to the publishing companies that produce them. Acquisitions are obtained for materials that serve the needs of the primary service population. Originally, this meant that only the voices of the majority population were heard. However, libraries are working to be more representative in their acquisitions and collections. When accomplishing these tasks, there is often a middleman involved – the book vendor, also known as a wholesaler or a jobber.

Book Vendors supply books, CDs, DVDs, etc. to libraries from hundreds of individual publishers, eliminating the need to deal with each publisher directly. Jobbers frequently offer other library services, such as customized processing and cataloging of materials, special bindings, bar codes, and opening-day collections.

Approval plans are another service offered by some vendors. When subscribing to an approval plan, the library submits specific criteria for item selection to the jobber. The jobber then automatically ships materials that match the criteria. After the items are reviewed, unwanted items are sent back. Approval plans are also called blanket orders and can be a relatively simple way for a library to bulk up its collections on a particular subject.

In recent years, licensing has become another aspect of acquisitions, especially with regard to Database access. With the inclusion of electronic sources of information, the act of acquiring licensing agreements became a standard element of the acquisition process. A license gives the library access only for a specific period of time; the product is not usually purchased outright.

Serials are items that are published periodically. Thus, some serials are called periodicals. Other examples of serials include newspapers, proceedings, reports, memoirs, annuals, and monographs.

Once serial titles are selected, the Serial Technician checks in each item as it arrives and readies it for the shelf. Since most serials are published with predictable frequency, (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) a continual flow of fresh information is infused into the library collection. Periodical publications can generally be divided into four types:

  • Magazines – Written for the layperson – easily understood by the average reader. This type of publication is frequently full of glossy, full-color photographs and advertisements.
  • Journals – Written for a particular academic or professional audience. Scholars and professors in the field are the major contributors and journals are commonly reviewed or juried by highly respected peers.  Though
  • Graphs and charts are commonplace in journals, there are usually very few advertisements or illustrations.
  • Trade periodicals – Combination of magazines and journals. The trade periodical is written for a specific professional or industry group, but the reading level is usually understandable to the layperson.
  • Newspapers – Range from prominent national dailies to weekly rural editions. Newspapers focus on reporting current events, weather, sports, and other current topics.

Acquisitions usually is in charge of recording the initial metadata of an item, including its URI or ISSN. URIs are chains of characters that stand for each manifestation in a library’s collection. Initially, these were only recorded for digital items but physical, tangible items have been increasingly receiving these identifiers as well. An ISSN is an identifying number created specifically for serials.

When a book has been acquired, it is recommended that a record of this holding be placed with OCLC. This will allow them to include it in MARC Record search results and metadata on Connexion as well as make it available for InterLibrary Loan on WorldCat.

Acquisitions or cataloging creates a Shelflist for all of the library. A shelflist is a bibliographic list of all works in a library’s collections. This aids patrons who want to discover items related to a particular work by examining where in the collections a particular item has been placed with respect to other items. Once an item has been recorded in the shelflist, it is ready for processing, or material preparation. The most common steps include, but are not limited to:

  • Stamping materials with library ownership stamps
  • Adhering call number labels and label protectors
  • Installing magnetic security strips/tapes or RFID tags


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Introduction to Library and Information Science Copyright © 2023 by College of Southern Idaho is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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