The three Iowa Regent University libraries, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa, and University of Iowa, have been collaborating on a joint contract for library binding services.  The request for proposal (RFP) was written and had been put out for bids.  On June 22, staff from each of the libraries met in Iowa City to inspect and critique the samples supplied by the binderies.

Each of the binderies submitting bids for the contract were asked to send 2 samples of each type of binding products along with samples of the end papers used.  By receiving two samples, we were able to inspect one sample in the finished form and the second sample was available to cut apart to inspect the inside of the spine, the folds, the leaf attachment, the type of materials used, and how well it was put together.  It gave us a better idea of the techniques and workmanship. Even though we perform quality control on every bindery shipment, it’s interesting to see what is going on inside and what may have caused the problems seen on the outside.  In this situation, you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

Nancy and Sara from U of I evaluating a binding.

As this was my first time to be involved with the writing of a bindery RFP and the selection of a bindery based on their bid and proposals, I found it very helpful to be able to inspect their products and workmanship.  As the volumes were passed around the table people were sharing their thoughts, their likes and dislikes with the work.  What might be important to one library might not be as important to another and discussion took place regarding these procedures.

Melissa from ISU dissects a sample volume while Jackie from UNI jots down her own assessment.

There were minor problems here and there that I expected due to the automation and mass production nature of the work, but what I did not expect were the egregious mistakes in a few of the samples.  At least these mistakes proved that the samples were not individually selected and represented the general problems that may occur, but it doesn’t say much for the bindery’s quality control.  I guess this is exactly why we request samples as part of the evaluation process.

Karen and Dennett from U of I Law assessing phase boxes.

At the end of the day, we all returned to our libraries with a better vision of the work performed by the submitting binderies.  The staff at the ISU library that were involved with this process met at a later date to compare notes and gave a numerical value, on a scale of 1- 10, to a predetermined list of the types of work presented by the binderies.

Our next step is to check references, get some clarification from vendors on their responses to the RFP, and evaluate the responses.  Purchasing will compare the pricing based on a weighted scale of how much the libraries request each product.