What makes a “good” vendor?

Deciding the criteria for a “good” vendor is a personalized and complicated question to answer. The needs and priorities of libraries vary tremendously even in the (relatively!) small world of law libraries. While the exact importance of factors may vary, I suggest that these are items we should be reviewing when we review vendors:

  • Product. Does the product fill a need? Does this item (print subscription, database, service) fill the need that still exists? Are there other alternatives? Changes in library staff, leadership, law school program changes, technology, and the marketplace make it useful to re-examine a product’s need in your library.
  • Cost. Sometimes cost will be an absolute number while other times it is best expressed as cost per use.
  • Usage. Is this item used by most of the first year class? By an entire upper-level writing course? By a single faculty member for scholarship? Although these questions may appear to be framed as “good” to “bad”, maybe that resource is key to that single faculty member’s scholarship. How much weight to place on this factor will vary depending on budgetary needs, however even low-use items may be of great importance to key members of the law school community.
  • Vendor commitment to equity and social justice. How committed is the vendor to diversity, equity, and inclusion? Is this surface-level commitment via social media or are there concrete steps taken by the company? See earlier posts on this blogs for some great examples of vendor action in this area.
  • Customer service. What happens when things go wrong? Flexibility can also fall into this category

Finding a balance between these factors can be tricky. What about a great product with poor customer service? An expensive product with low usage? There are many tricky questions we could ponder. However, this small blog post is simply a reminder against not examining any factors and thinking the scariest phrase in all of collection development: “we’ve always done it this way”.