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Who can choose a supplier?

As with all purchases, suppliers of school library resources must be chosen in accordance with departmental purchasing guidelines, and carried out by a staff member with the appropriate training and delegation.

These requirements are outlined in the Purchasing and Procurement guidelines and Supply Arrangements Department of Education, Training and Employment staff only., which can be accessed via OnePortal.

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What makes a 'good' supplier?

When choosing a supplier consider the following points:

  • Can they fill orders accurately, and within an agreed timeframe?
  • Can they tailor their invoicing to meet the school's needs?
  • Do they charge delivery and/or handling fees?
  • Can they obtain items urgently if required?
  • Do they offer discounts?
  • Can you check the order's progress online?
  • Can they back order unavailable items?
  • Do they allow for cancellation of orders?
  • What is their returns policy?
  • What additional services can they provide?

Some of this information can be obtained from a supplier's catalogues or blurbs, or from their website.

Ultimately, the choice should be made based on prior experience of the supplier's standard of service, urgency of the request, individual requirements such as shelf-ready services, and likely cost.

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Types of suppliers

Library Suppliers

Library suppliers are agents who can source almost any publication that is in print.
They specialise in supplying resources to libraries, are very reliable, and offer a variety of additional services such as resource lists, online order management, and shelf-ready services. The latter can be tailored to the library’s requirements and may include labelling items with call numbers and barcodes, attaching security devices, and covering items with protective film. Shelf-ready services incur an additional fee per item.

Some library suppliers may also offer in-school resource displays for purchase. Such events can be useful for promoting the school library, and students and/or parents may also be invited to assist in selecting library materials. This ensures the library collection is relevant, and promotes the library to both students and staff. Adequate security measures should be taken to ensure no displayed items are lost.

Library suppliers are also useful for sourcing hard-to-get publications, although such items may incur additional charges such as postage and handling, or a 'cost-plus' fee. This may be a fixed amount or a percentage of the invoice total.


Bookstores and other educational distributors are useful for commercial publications, and some specialise in providing services to school libraries. Resources may be purchased in-store if the outlet is located nearby, and urgent orders can often be filled from existing stock.

Generally they can supply items which are currently available in Australia. Most can also source items from overseas, although surcharges may apply.


Publishers can supply their own publications, or those for which they hold Australian distribution rights.
They are another good choice for supplying items urgently, and can advise on future stock levels.
They may also be able to organise book displays or book fairs at the school.

Online bookshops

These suppliers are very competitive, but can vary in their invoicing and processing of payments, and standards of customer service. Read their terms and conditions carefully before ordering and, if necessary, contact them for clarification.
Compare possible savings with the possibility of difficulties in resolving problems, or returning unacceptable items.
Items supplied by overseas companies may also incur federal government charges, depending on the value of the goods purchased.

Second-hand bookshops

Second-hand bookshops may be useful for obtaining highly-desirable, out-of-print items.

Contact a few local second-hand bookshops to check if they have stock, or consider using an agent that specialises in sourcing out-of-print items. Agents will apply a surcharge for their time and effort if an order is placed.

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Receiving orders

The basics

The following steps will be common to all school libraries:

  • Check all parcels before opening them to ensure they have been correctly delivered.
  • Open parcels carefully to prevent damaging the items or any accompanying paperwork.
  • Locate the packing slip and invoice (ask for a copy of the invoice to be sent with the goods at the time of ordering), and ensure that all items have been received in good condition.
  • Keep different consignments together with their paperwork. If possible assign a labelled shelf or trolley for newly received items if they cannot be processed immediately.
  • Retrieve the library's copy of the order, and ensure the required items have been supplied in the correct quantities. Also check that any shelf-ready processing has been carried out correctly.
  • Contact suppliers immediately to resolve any problems, and remember to include your customer number and the invoice details for their reference.
  • Identify urgent items and process them as your first priority.
  • If the correct items have been received, record the details of the item's receipt according to the needs of the school's administration team. This may involve recording the date of delivery, the invoice number, and the actual cost of each item (including additional charges such as postage) on the library's copy of the order.
  • Receive the item into the library's automated system if using its ordering module.
  • Barcode the item and add the new copy to the correct catalogue record. Update the library system to indicate the item has been received and is in-processing.
  • Update the school library budget, and forward the invoice for payment to the appropriate authority as required.
  • Catalogue the item, and forward it for further processing as required.
  • Advise requestor that the item is now available as required.
  • Add details of the item to resource lists or other promotional material, or tag the item for display, as required.

Additional tasks

The receipt of library materials may also include the following:

  • Returns
    If an error is made by either party it will be necessary to resolve the problem promptly. Generally an order may only be cancelled or altered with the supplier's agreement. If an incorrect item is supplied, the library is entitled to return it in exchange for the correct item. If it is no longer available, a refund should be negotiated.
    If an error occurs because of incorrect information provided by the library, the supplier is not obliged to replace or refund the item. However, in the interests of fostering good customer relations, the supplier may agree to help the library rectify the situation.
  • Monitoring outstanding orders
    Claims for outstanding items should be made regularly. Generally, 2 weeks is a reasonable turnaround time for items that are in stock in Australia. Items which must be sourced from overseas may take an average of 6-8 weeks if in stock. This task can be reduced if the supplier provides regular order status reports.
  • Statistics
    You may wish to keep statistics to track expenditure on different parts of the collection, or to calculate average book prices for different resource types.
  • Supplier records
    Records should be kept for each company in order to monitor their performance over time. Details should include contact names, address, telephone number and website, and information about discounts, delivery charges and shelf-ready services. Notes can also be recorded about any problems experienced.

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All library resources should be end-processed in a manner that prolongs their life, and identifies them as library property where the items will be housed, and how they will be used should also be considered.

An in-house procedure manual is an effective way to ensure that different types of resources (books, class sets, kits, etc.) are processed appropriately and, if detailed enough, can provide step-by-step instructions for all staff and volunteers to follow. It could specify, for example, the types and sizes of labels to be used, font styles, and where labels should be affixed.

All items require:

  • A label or stamp identifying the school's name and address. This may be applied in a few places on each item, such as the title page, inside the front or back cover, or on a particular page number if desired.
  • A barcode label. This should be located in the same place on each item to enable easy scanning during stocktaking procedures.
  • A security tag if an electronic security system is in use. The type of tagging required will be determined by the type of media to be tagged. Video recordings and electronic resources cannot be tagged with security tape that requires sensitizing and desensitising as information stored on the disc will be erased. (Refer to the manual for your security system or check with your supplier.)
  • Covering with a clear adhesive sheet such as Contact if they are books.
  • Packaging in suitable containers or bags if they are non-book items.
  • Contents labels listing the quantities of each component for kits.
  • A call number label including location prefix and Dewey number as appropriate. These can be printed from the library's automated system.

Shelf-ready services provided by some suppliers can assist with this process and save a lot of staff time. Options can include attaching the school and barcode labels, call number labels and security tags, and book-covering to the library's specifications.

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A system for managing resources at the end-processing stage should be established. For example, labelled shelving can be used to separate items according to which stage of end-processing the items are at. Categories might include cataloguing, labelling, covering, end-process-checking, etc. Shelving can also be used to identify urgent items requiring priority treatment, and to separate new items from repair work.

The library's automated system could also be used to lend items to End-Processing so they can be located before they are ready for shelving or display.

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Last reviewed
28 May 2018
Last updated
28 May 2018