Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The cost of "whatever"

In every area of a library's operations -- brick-n-mortar as well as digital -- we have to be aware of costs and realize that many costs are not fixed. There is often room for a little give-n-take and some creativity.
  • Don't have quite enough images to digitize to get that wonderful price break? Do you have something that vendor needs like an introduction to a prime prospect? Could you do case study for that vendor in return for the price break? Could you include images from another institution or collection in your order in order to get the price break?
  • Can't get that vendor to come to you to do training without paying big bucks? Could a larger organization (and a big client of that vendor) get them in to do training for several organizations at a low (or no) cost? The vendor might do it in order to keep that major client happy.
  • Can you collaborate with other institutions in your region to get a price break on equipment? We often think of consortia as helping with this, but are there informal (ad hoc) arrangements that you can take advantage of?
  • Negotiating for a price break on attending workshops and conferences can be impossible, but is there some other way of lowering the cost of attendance? Or might you use posted presentations, blog posting, and other communications from conferences to learn without actually attending the sessions? (A strategy promoted recently by ALA TechSource in some of its postings.)
  • Need a database, but the cost is too high? Figure out what you could pay and then approach the vendor for a negotiation. The vendor isn't going to give-away the database for nothing, but might be very willing to come down in price a bit in order to get a new client. This negotiation can work anytime, but might especially be effective towards the end of the year when vendors are trying to get more sales on the books. (The vendor might ask for a non-disclosure agreement, so that you won't go telling everyone what a great deal you got.)
Often the key in negotiation is being able to "walk away" from the deal. No, can't pay that price. No, guess I don't need it. No, my management isn't convinced. Guess we'll have to look around at other options. So sorry...yup...walking away can often open a few doors and options, if you're truly ready to walk away and do without the product.

Can't negotiate? Then hire someone to do the negotiation for you. It might be someone on staff or a consultant.

And what if it doesn't work? Hey, at least you tried.

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