Running the Library, Technology

Tales of Migration, Part 6
In Which We Explore Negotiating Prices to Save Even More Money

This is the sixth in a series covering the library system migration of the Bartlett Library at the Museum of International Folk Art. The story so far: The library needs a new library system, and has selected Koha open source software hosted and maintained by ByWater Solutions as its preferred solution. We’ve found a partner in the Laboratory of Anthropology Library nearby, learned that we can save money by working together, and we’ve created a draft agreement between the two libraries.

This article is not strictly about the current migration, but it contains information that might be useful to some libraries when they reach this point in a migration process.

Please note that the advice in this installment only applies to organizations whose fiscal structure allows talking with vendors about bids. Know what your organization allows! If you work within a structure that requires a strict request for proposals and a consideration of only the bids submitted, please skip this installment. Some libraries allow a less formal process with more negotiation, and this information is included with organizations like them in mind.

If your organization’s rules allow, then you can – and should – ask vendors about ways to whittle down their initial quotes. Through talking with different vendors over the years I’ve found there is some mushiness in most quotes. Make friends with your salesperson, and then ask if there are places to save money.

Can you save money if you don’t intend to use certain parts of the software? Some libraries don’t catalog their magazines or newspapers, for example. Well, oh vendor, if I have no serials data for you to convert – and serials data is very tricky in any migration – can you lower the data conversion part of the price?

How many staff members need to be trained, and how comfortable are they with computers? Maybe you can chisel down the training portion of migration cost by switching to online training from in-person, on-site training.

Listen carefully to what the vendors’ sales staffs say they are offering you. Each is trying to convince you that he or she has the best offer; they will list everything they provide plus the kitchen sink. Now think about what modules (if any) you don’t need. Well, if you don’t need it, can you save money by leaving it out?

Some vendors offer firm packages, so sometimes the answer will be a flat no. Sometimes, though, the answer will be a new, lower quote. You lose nothing by asking.

If your budget has been severely cut, or you serve a poor rural area, or you rely on your own fundraising for most of your budget – tell the vendor. Tell them what important work you do, and that you don’t have the budget you need. It’s true, isn’t it? And it has been known to shake loose a discount. If you see a product you want and you can almost – but not quite – afford it, tell the vendor. If they want your long-term business, they may be willing to shave something off the migration cost.

While you’re begging, it’s also worth asking if the vendor has recently worked with any library that managed to get a grant for their migration. If so, ask to be put in touch with the library so you can find out more.

Next time: winning the approval of stakeholders

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