Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

The Procurement of Copying Equipment for a Library with an RFP for a Library Copier Vending Service

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

The Procurement of Copying Equipment for a Library with an RFP for a Library Copier Vending Service

Article excerpt


Photocopiers, like television sets, personal computers, and automobiles, have evolved from unique products into products that have been standardized to a great extent and have become, to a greater or lesser extent, commodities. By this we mean the way that the machines work, the basic technologies employed, and the products generated by them, if not identical are certainly very similar. However, to carry the simile a little further, like these other products, copiers come in different sizes and configurations with various accessories and with differences in their ruggedness. And, just as one would not buy a one-passenger sports car as the only automobile for a large family or one large luxury sedan for a house full of teenagers and other drivers when two or three smaller, less expensive and more economical cars might be a more suitable choice, it is important to determine needs before making a choice. Like acquiring an automobile, there is even a choice of how to pay for it-outright purchase, lease with an option to buy at the end of the lease term, renting, or even, like hiring a taxi, just paying for the copies that are made on a machine that is owned and serviced by someone else.

In the 90's, there are literally hundreds of photocopiers from which to choose. Buyers Laboratory, Inc., a company that has been testing photocopiers for more than a quarter-century, currently tests more than fifty machines annually. In addition, the company issues the Copier Specification Guide, a quarterly publication which carries manufacturer specifications on over 500 machines currently being marketed in the U.S. Each year, the Guides typically add about 100 new models and drop a similar number of models which have been discontinued.

There are some true commodities, such as sugar, salt, butter, milk, etc., that are so standardized that, except for things like packaging, freshness, or physical condition, can be purchased on the basis of cost or convenience alone. It is not that easy when buying an expensive and complicated piece of equipment that needs periodic service and is subject to breakdowns in service. This is when it becomes important to choose the most appropriate machine from the right company and use the most appropriate form of payment.

Libraries are like many other users of photocopy equipment from headquarters of large corporations to sole proprietors of small businesses. The one thing that all have in common is the need for some sort of copying machine. But how does one know which machine, and from whom and how to acquire it?

In some ways, the largest libraries may have the easiest job because they are large enough to have many machines and their account will be important enough to the vendor to receive special attention. Also, because the amount of money involved is so large, staff time will be assigned to the job of evaluating competing services. Saying this, however, the larger the number of machines an organization must acquire, the larger the consequences of a poor choice. Nevertheless, a bad choice for a small library, one with only a single copy machine and very limited resources, can be a very vexing problem, indeed.

At this point, there are few libraries starting up from scratch and there are very few libraries of any size that do not already have at least one copier on the premises. So at least there is some history of use. Obviously, conditions can change, but at least knowing what has been the library's experience is a good starting point. A systematic evaluation of copying needs, both by function and location, is required.

The following list contains some of the specific factors that may affect the choice of copier equipment in a library (the list is not comprehensive, but suggestive):

* Formats of the material to be copied, e.g., newspapers, journals and magazines, bound periodicals and rebound books, trade books, individual or multipage documents, one-sided or two-sided. …

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