|Credit Cards for Acquisitions||
There are a lot of "hot topics" in acquisitions these days; the use credit cards is definitely one of them. Are you using one yet? Rachel Pergament at the University of Southern California Law Library is. In her column on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com). com in the December 1997 issue of TSLL (v.23, no.2), she wrote that U.S.C.'s policy of encouraging credit card use is one of her reasons for ordering more books from Amazon.com. Pamela Bluh and her staff at the University of Maryland Law Library are making extensive use of a credit card. The state of Maryland now requires credit card use for all single transactions up to $2500 if the vendor will take credit cards. The Law Library recently increased the monthly ceiling for materials purchased for the library collection by credit card from $10,000 to $40,000.
At American University Law Library, I have been using a credit card for book purchases for about a year and a half. The card is in my name and I am the only one who is authorized to use it; the bills are paid by the university and I get a monthly statement. Our limit for single transactions is $500. I have been using the card more frequently in the last few months, but only for purchases that fall outside the normal workflow. The usual scenario: a faculty member or librarian brings a rush order to the Acquisitions Department. The quickest way to get the item, usually either one from an obscure publisher who requires prepayment or from Amazon.com, is to use a credit card. Since I am the only one with the credit card, I have to place the orders myself.
It makes sense for universities and other large institutions to encourage credit card use. It cuts down on paperwork (invoices, checks, postage, and all the other elements associated with bill-paying), the same reason that most of us prefer to use them instead of writing a check for every purchase. But there are complications. The University Controller's Office deducts all credit card purchases from the overall library budget; we have to make sure that library acquisitions are subtracted from the book budget. Because other library staff use credit cards for general purchases and because I use the credit card for purchases other than books, we have to carefully examine the monthly statements and sort through reports from the Controller's Office in order to transfer money between library accounts. One way to streamline our accounting procedures would be to have multiple cards assigned to different funds and restrict use of them to only those funds, as they do at U.S.C. Law Library.
In spite of these difficulties, I think credit cards are a real asset in library acquisitions. The times demand immediate response; faculty and librarians are finding more resources on the Web and because they are less willing to wait for their special order, I am purchasing more "rush" items using Amazon.com. The credit card allows us to get materials into the library much more quickly because we do not have to wait for checks to be cut for prepayments. I am also using the credit card for acquisitions from smaller vendors over the Web, at local bookstores, and at conferences.
As I write, many acquisitions librarians are heading to Charleston, SC, for the annual conference on "Issues in Book and Serial Acquisition" where there will be a panel discussion on credit cards. I would be very interested in hearing about it if any of you attend. You can email me your report and I'll be happy to include it in a future column. Or just let me know about your experiences with credit cards. This summer at the American Library Association Conference in New Orleans there will be a program called "Charge It! Going Plastic in Acquisitions." As I said, this is definitely a hot topic!