The Ohio Web Library databases are normally selected and purchased once every five years, to get the most advantageous pricing from vendors. To select the products in the five year contracts that began in July 2013, OPLIN, INFOhio, and OhioLINK (the Libraries Connect Ohio partners along with the State Library of Ohio) used a similar process to that used to select the previous five year set in 2008.
OPLIN, INFOhio, and OhioLINK each appointed five members to a joint database advisory committee, joined by one person appointed by the State Library. These sixteen committee members plus staff members from the three programs met in person on 27 August 2012 to review the fundamental philosophy of Libraries Connect Ohio. Why do we buy databases? What purpose do they serve? Is it still best to buy them collaboratively? All of the basic assumptions that have guided Libraries Connect Ohio since 2003 were examined. The committee identified information resource trends over the past five years and assessed the current need for resources in Ohio. This discussion resulted in some revision of our statement of strategic logic, but overall the committee felt that the basic philosophy of Libraries Connect Ohio was still valid.
Communicating by conference calls, an email list, and a closed website, the committee then assisted with the writing of an Invitation to Negotiate. (An "ITN" is like an RFP, except it allows the buyer to negotiate better proposals from selected vendors.) The committee wanted to encourage proposals that would: cover a broad range of topics and be useful for multiple types of users; present resources through an attractive and effective interface; have good support for marketing of the collection; include compatibility with mobile devices; and adhere to national and international standards for content and technology. The ITN was posted by Wright State University, acting as fiscal agent for LCO, on 20 December 2012.
Thirty-five (35) information vendors submitted proposals for over 120 products by the 15 February 2013 deadline. These proposals covered a very broad range of subject areas and formats. The committee divided the proposals into roughly equal subject groupings and split into six subcommittees to review proposal documents and test product performance through temporary access provided by the vendors. (Some committee members served on more than one subcommittee.) The goal of each subcommittee was not to prioritize or select proposals, but to become conversant with each product and be able to contribute to discussion of a product's merits and characteristics.
The committee then met in person on 11 March 2013 to discuss all the proposals and select vendors and products for further negotiation. At the end of the day, a prioritized list of products was decided, even though the cost of the products in the list exceeded the available funds. OhioLINK then immediately began the process of negotiating lower prices where possible, and weeding out some lower-priority products, in order to meet the budget constraints. The final results of the strategy review, the selection process, and the negotiations were presented on 19 April 2013 to the State Library Board for approval of the LSTA funding component of the budget.