How to Buy Cooperatively Quick Reference

Buy off state contracts. In most states, the government has negotiated deals with a variety of vendors, obtaining steep discounts that local government agencies can take advantage of. You can buy hardware, software, supplies, even cars off state master contracts. For non-specialized hardware and software, the prices on the master contract frequently beat the prices you can negotiate for yourself. However, you probably won’t find highly specialized items, such as print management software or ILS software. Not every state has this great arrangement, but most do. Also, the details vary widely from state to state. If you don't know anything about state contracts and you want to learn more, get in touch with your state library or state procurement office, or do a Google search for “state contract" and your state initial.

Buy off the city or county contract. In some cases, you’ll be partnering with other municipal agencies, whether you want to or not. If the library is under the legal authority of the town government and local policy dictates that everyone has to buy computers through the IT department, that’s what you’ll do. However, if your library is administered independently, it could still be worthwhile to meet with the town’s IT folks. They might be able to negotiate a better deal for you than you can get on your own, or they might have some good advice about bargaining with vendors.

Let a library cooperative negotiate for you. In many areas, the state library or a statewide library cooperative negotiates steep discounts for members and constituents. Some of these cooperatives only negotiate the licensing of online databases from vendors such as Proquest and Thomson-­Gale. Others focus on a wider range of library-­specific products, such as books, magazines, furniture, preservation materials, barcode scanners, etc. In other words, these library cooperatives often complement the work done by state government purchasing agencies (see the first bullet item), though there might be some overlap. You’re more likely to find desktop computers, servers and other commodity technology on the state contracts. The Colorado Library Consortium and Minitex are two examples of consortia that negotiate on behalf of member libraries.

OCLC regional service providers. If your library system or your state library has paid for membership in an OCLC regional consortium, you’re probably eligible for discounts on library-­ related supplies and services. Of course, these organizations begin by negotiating deals with OCLC itself, but they also negotiate with other vendors. For the most, part the regional service providers represent multiple states. BCR, Amigos and Solinet are prominent examples. Wikipedia has a full list.

Set up your own cooperative purchasing arrangement with other libraries in your area, local colleges, K­12 schools or area non­profits. It can be time­-consuming to create a consortium, so ask yourself if the long­-term benefits outweigh the initial effort. Also, talk to lawyers and accountants who know the local laws and regulations. They can probably guide you to templates that you can use as a basis for your purchasing agreements. For more information on using local partnerships to buy broadband and other telecommunication services, see Internet Access and ISPs.