Forms in Acquisitions Work

Arthur P. Sweet
1953 College and Research Libraries  
Mr. Sweet is acquisitions librarian, Cornell University Library. T HE DESIGN and use of forms in library acquisitions work is conditioned by two basic factors: (1) The interacting characteristics of size, organization, policies and methods, peculiar to the particular library or library system. For example: the organizational plan of the library determines, to a certain extent, which kinds of record-files are essential and which may safely be disregarded-alphabetical order-files, chronological
more » ... es, chronological order-files, or orderfiles arranged by source of supply, ordersreceived or accession files, fiscal or "fund" files, "in-process" files, etc.; and the types of records kept affect, in turn, the number and kinds of forms required. Similarly, volume of business-a function of size-exerts a considerable influence on the forms problem. (2) The nature and frequency of operations involved in acquisitions routines, in general. Thus, the order department of every library is faced with certain basic problems: the solicitation of quotations, orderplacement, order-claiming or "follow-up," order-cancellation, the payment or approval for payment of invoices, etc. The first of these factors makes for diversity, both in kinds of forms employed and in design within the same type of form; the second criterion, dispassionately considered and explored, argues for similarity and standardization. Since libraries and librarians tend to be so rampantly individual, the former, differentiating ingredient has all the best of it, and acquisitions forms in American libraries are far more remarkable for their, variety than for their uniformity. The order itself, for instance, may be a-letter-size order-sheet in duplicate or triplicate, or it may be the 3" x 5", multiple-copy, "correlated" orderslip ; and among any broad collection of samples of the latter sort will be found variations: (a) in number of parts (from three or four to as many as nine), (b) in the disposition made of, and the names given to, those parts, (c) in the amount and kinds of information intended to be included on them, and the arrangement of that information on the slips, (d) in the use of one-or two-color printing, and of printing on one or both sides, and so on. Admitting that part of this great diversity is the necessary consequence of institutional differences in size, set-up, and services undertaken, another large part merely reflects the librarian's lack of acquaintance with (or indifference to?) what other libraries are doing, and the absence of any real data as to what forms and methods are best, and why. To cite only one of many such needs: Have we any facts or figures to show that the use of a copy of the multiple-order-slip for "initial claiming" is either more or less effective and efficient than the use of a separate, speciallydesigned, claim form? Apart from this not always necessary or desirable disengagement, there are other failings to which the library forms-designer is subject. One of these is a conservative resistance to change. The desirability and design of a form is apt to be carefully considered at the time of its initial adoption; and thereafter, nothing less than a change in department head (or higher echelon) can achieve its elimination, or even modification. Another is the tendency towards proliferation of sub-species and sub-sub-species. Once a form is adopted for the average book order, a separate style is developed for serials orders, and another variety for ordering material on approval, and still another for orders in response to quotations received, etc. A third failing is that of regarding the form as suitable only for the most routine, everyday functions. Far too often, the personal letter is used for a purpose which might be served just as effectively-and much more efficiently -by a form. It must be true of other research libraries -as I know it is of ours-that the demands made upon them to handle an ever-and 396 COLLEGE AND RESEARCH LIBRARIES
doi:10.5860/crl_14_04_396 fatcat:jusjujz5ffebxcc2kdfoff57z4