How to place an order
There are several means of placing orders: postcards, computer-generated letters, photocopied form letters, individually written letters and cards, or telephone calls.
Postcards. These are appropriate for most routine request for free materials.
Form postcards. These are even better time-savers and can be tailored to special needs. For instance, if you are requesting college catalogs or information from local chambers of commerce, art galleries, or some other group of sources, you can tailor your requests to the group. See figure 4.1 for an example.
Fig. 4.1 Sample form postcard.
Form letters. These offer little advantage over form postcards and require more postage unless you are ordering a number of titles from that source. Figure 4.2 provides a sample form letter for occasions when they are appropriate.
Personalized individual letters. These are generally not worth the extra time involved unless they can be computer generated. They are recommended in the following situations, however:
- when special explanations are necessary or personalized attention is being requested,
- if the source is an unusual one that is unaccustomed to handling requests for materials, or
- if the supply of the item is limited, in which case a personal letter may have a slight advantage.
Telephone orders. These are an option since many sources have toll-free 800 telephone numbers. It will take much more time to locate the right person for the order, place the order, and provide mailing information than it will to address a card or an envelope. This is recommended only when you need something in a rush.
How to prepare a request
- Use your institution’s logo or letterhead.
- Keep it brief. Most requests will be handled by clerks who do not want to read a long letter.
- Designate a particular person, position, or collection to receive materials. If you do not want to use personal names, use File Librarian or Career Collection, which facilitates the sorting of mail.
- Include a mailing label for faster returns. (You can get peelable mailing labels for postcards, but be sure to include a notation that it is to be used for the return mailing.)
- Ask to be put on mailing lists for free materials if you are interested in other materials they publish.
- Use the readers’ service postcards in magazines.
- If materials are marked with restrictions such as “for teachers only,” be sure to explain that your library serves teachers.
- Ask for specific titles if there are particular ones you want. Word your request to include new titles on the same subject.
- Be clear about the topics you are interested in if you are making a subject request.
- Avoid vague requests such as “Send all of your publications.” Ask for a catalog or list of publications if you need more information.
- Check old addresses if you have not used them for some time. Organizations and businesses move frequently and the Postal Service will forward mail for only one year.
- Consider a bulk-mailing permit. Check with the Postal Service for details, because there are specific requirements. Your institution may have a permit that you could use for certain groups of requests, for example, to embassies.
- Use peelable return mailing labels on your postcards.
- Have envelopes printed with your address if you have many requests for self-addressed, stamped envelopes (SASE).
How to simplify payment
Set up a deposit account for federal documents available from the U.S. Superintendent of Documents. Note that some government documents are available for sale only by the issuing agency.
Ask the publishers about blanket orders, annual subscriptions, or any other means of simplified billing. Remember that the cost of processing a purchase order increases the cost of the materials, especially in a large institution, where it can be as high as $75.
How to keep track of orders
Record-keeping for purchased materials will conform to the requirements dictated by the institution. In any case there should be some type of order card or form for each item ordered. Record-keeping for requests for free materials can vary widely. Actual practice ranges from keeping no records of requests to elaborate indexes by source and title. (Geraldine H. Gould and Ithmer Wolfe, How to Organize and Maintain the Library Picture/Pamphlet File (New York: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1968 out of print). The authors recommend a system of controlling requests based on a three-section file for (1) sources requested, (2) sources received, and (3) subject cards listing sources. Common sense will probably be your best guide. The following options may give you some ideas.
- Mark the entries when ordering from a list of free materials (for example, write on your list or photocopy pages you order from. This is an easy way to keep a record of requests).
- Record important requests (for example, for local history files).
- Use a tickler file if you request certain publications on a regular basis (for example, annual reports).
- Use a check-in card for regularly issued items (for example, college catalogs). You can easily record an order notation.
- Keep a source file if you order frequently from a source (for example, combine requests and order every two months).
- Use your computer if it simplifies record-keeping for you (for example, record the date of request, source, address, items, cost, date of receipt, and comments). Set up your computer file so you can sort by title (item), source, subject, or anything else that is important to you.
Remember that the more time you spend on each item, the more expensive it becomes.
Your ordering alternatives
An option in the ordering process is to use a pamphlet jobber, service, or agent (Library Reference Service, though not a pamphlet jobber in the true sense of the word, offers some shortcuts in making available sets of pamphlets and articles by compiling sets of files on various topics. Social Issues Resources Series (SIRS) offers similar packages in loose-leaf notebooks. The Gold Files is a series of education topics offered by Arizona Educational Information System on the campus of Arizona State University. Addresses, telephone numbers, and related information about these and other vendors are listed in the vendors section.) The advantages are simplified bookkeeping, reduction of correspondence, and a higher percentage of filled orders. Disadvantages are slower service and added expense. One example is Accents Publications Service, Inc., a distributor of U.S. government publications and association publications for trade and professional associations; scientific, technical, and scholarly societies; and public policy and intergovernmental organizations. They also provide document retrieval service for reports and journal articles and supply scientific, technical, and scholarly books – all this for a fee, of course.
Supplementary materials are not ordered in the same way that book and periodical orders are handled. There are a number of options related to ordering supplementary materials. Each librarian will choose the means that works best for the situation.
- Keep the ordering process simple.
- Order groups of materials when appropriate.
Sitter, Clara L. The vertical file and its alternative: a handbook. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1992.