Five questions to ask when selecting a vendor partner


In the current climate, working to complete everything from daily tasks to special projects is more difficult than ever before. You may be working remotely and unsure of when you will get access to your physical collections. You may also have realized your records are not as complete as you would like, and that’s creating barriers to discovery. Perhaps you have a growing backlog of work and a team that has been reallocated to address immediate priorities in the library. In order to continue to create access to your collections and get all of the work done, you may need to seek out new vendor partnerships.

As you consider potential partners, it is best to be prepared with some specific questions. Here are five to get you started.

1. Do you have a solution for my specific needs?
Many vendors have a ready, out-of-the-box solution that they are able to provide. That is a great starting point for a partnership, but be sure to ask about other clients they have helped with your similar needs. For example, is the provider willing to add or take away from the solution so it fits your needs? Will the potential partner provide a personalized solution?

2. What will my total costs be?
Most vendors have standard pricing, but there may be extra fees associated with your project. Beyond the base price for your solution, what additional costs will you be responsible for? A few common examples include shipping and handling, any custom programming needs, and taxes.

3. Can you help us create a project plan to meet our current and future needs?
Many vendors offer consulting services to evaluate collections and produce project plans that include your specifications, an outline of the costs, and an overall timeline. Some will charge additional fees for this service while others include this as a complimentary part of their project solution. Often this planning can be a barrier to ever starting a project, so be sure you select a partner who can help you from beginning to end.

4. What are my payment terms and are they negotiable?
Every company has their standard contract terms and conditions. It is likely that your organization has some local guidelines they must follow in considering payment terms. For example, if a contract states that a down payment is required, but your institution does not allow for that, will the vendor be flexible to those terms? Be sure to share contract guidelines early in the discussion to ensure your vendor partner is willing to meet your requirements.

5. How often do you communicate project updates and by what channels?
Communication is the key to success, so it is important to confirm the level of communication a partner will exhibit throughout the life of your project. Be sure to ask if you will have a dedicated contact, how often to expect communication, and by what channels you will receive updates about your project. If a vendor suggests weekly written communication for example, but you would prefer live updates via teleconference, be sure to negotiate that up front so you know your expectations will be met.

Interviewing potential vendors allows you to select a partner that is the most flexible and able to craft a solution that fits your needs. Taking the time to identify and develop strong partnerships allows you to get the best value for all of your current and future project goals.

Worrying about legacy tags as you plan your new RFID project?

RFID tags have been used in libraries for decades, but current open source ISO standards weren’t developed until 2005, and these became the official standards in 2011. This means some early adopters find themselves with legacy RFID tags that won’t integrate with modern systems. As those libraries look to transition to new technology, there must be some focus on whether these older tags will interfere with any new tags that are applied. : 3M Tattle Tape B1 Security Strips - 1-sided EM 1, 000 ...
3M Tattle-Tape

One common concern is whether security strips such as Tattle-Tape can cause interference with an RFID tag. Security strips placed in books and other media will not interfere with any RFID tags currently on the market.

The most common legacy tags you should watch out for are Checkpoint tags. These large, square tags are known for their oversized transceivers that are protected with a circular hard plastic cover about the size of a dime.

Checkpoint RFID tag
Checkpoint RFID Tag

Whether or not these tags will interfere with modern RFID tags will depend on the types of equipment you are having installed by your RFID provider (checkout stations, security gates, automated material handling, etc.), and what legacy equipment you intend to continue using. Whatever the situation, you will want to do the following:

  1. Never apply the new tags directly on top of or overlapping the old tags. Regardless of the situation, it is agreed that this will compromise the new tag’s readability.
  2. In advance of tagging all of your material, make sure to pull a good sample from your collections to run tests on. Encode the new tags using your preferred vendor’s software, and apply them to each item following your vendor’s recommended guidelines. Then, take a few new items without legacy tags and add the new RFID to them as well. You now are ready to run tests.
  3. Start off by testing the items without legacy tags. Monitor how long it takes to check out the materials both at the self checkout machines and at the circulation desk. Are you getting any read errors when scanning a stack of books at once? Are you seeing any kind of read delays? Then take those checked out materials and carry them through the security gates to see if the gates go off when they shouldn’t. Test again with the materials not checked out to verify the gates will go off.
  4. Now conduct these same tests with the materials that have legacy tags. If all of your results are the same, with no significant delays in checkout or issues with the security gates, then you should be fine to tag your collection without deactivating the legacy tags. However, if you are seeing problems occur from these tests, you will need to include deactivation of the old tags as part of your new tagging process.

When deactivating legacy tags, you have three options:

  1. Peel the original tag off of the material.
  2. Use a precision knife to cut through the old tag’s metal circuitry.
  3. Use a precision knife to cut through the tag, and then use butt of the knife to crush the transceiver.

For whatever option you choose, there are a few issues you need to watch out for. Peeling old tags can tear the surface of the books they were applied to, and cutting the tags takes just the right amount of pressure to ensure the blade doesn’t go through the tag and cut through the material as well. Whichever option is chosen, you will want to run further tests to make sure they can be done safely and are sufficient to alleviate any issues seen in the original sample.

To explore how Backstage can help with your next project, call 1.800.288.1265 or send an email to

Library Projects You Can Plan from Home

As we all adjust to a new normal, it is time for librarians to think outside the box about the electronic and physical access to materials that patrons need. Although it feels that life is on hold right now, special improvement or development projects at your library don’t need to stop for COVID-19. We’ve put together a list of ideas for small and large projects that you can plan (or even start!) remotely.

Catalog Upgrades

The condition of your MARC records is more important than ever. Increased remote catalog searches and virtual reference inquiries means that any problems in the catalog are going to be much more noticeable. These issues can include duplicate records, items coded as the wrong format, outdated subject headings, and unauthorized author names. This is an excellent opportunity to start cleaning up that bad data!

Backstage can work with your metadata remotely and deliver upgrades automatically. We need very limited information to put together your quote, usually just the number of bibliographic records and the types of issues you would like to address. We’ll use your sample records to come up with a project plan and timeline to accelerate clean-up. If you can’t get started on a large-scale automation project right away, we have handy planning guides, an online wiki, and detailed profiles to use for planning purposes.

Data Conversion

What pesky old file formats do you have? Were your finding aids printed on a typewriter or put into a spreadsheet? Are the handwritten letters in your digital collection unable to be keyword searched? Now is the best time to improve the discoverability of your digital and archival collections by upgrading your files to Dublin Core XML or Encoded Archival Description (EAD) XML, or by transcribing some of your key documents. Backstage can assist with all of these projects. We have programmers and catalogers familiar with all major schemas and file formats.

Grant-funded Digitization Projects

Librarians are known for having to do more with less, but grants can help immensely with increasing access to unique collections. There are different types of grants to choose from on national (CLIR, NEH, and IMLS), state, and private levels. To get started, check-out this related blog post about grant resources.

Once you have identified your target collection for digitization, we can help with planning and gathering information for your grant application. This includes estimating costs, creating a timeline, and offering workflows for your narrative. Our digital solution saves you time that would be otherwise spent on sourcing equipment or training staff. We can expedite getting your collection online!

Large-scale Improvements

When libraries begin to reopen and welcome patrons back into the building, Circulation will be inundated with returns, and Technical Services will likely encounter a backlog of acquisitions. We hate to think about this, but there may even be a lot of dust when libraries turn on the lights! As we adjust to new physical workflows, this is also a great time to be thinking about large-scale improvements such as:

  • RFID implementation for better inventories and contactless check-out
  • Cleaning and weeding collections to make room for new materials
  • Space improvements to facilitate social distancing that may require moving collections and purchasing new furniture or equipment

For all on-site services, Backstage offers a range of support options. From project consultations to having a Backstage project manager come on-site with a team of technicians to help execute the entire project workflow. Together we can identify a solution to fit your range of needs.

FY21 or FY22 Projects

It is time to be thinking about the future and how libraries can adapt for changing access. Distance learning, eBook borrowing, and virtual research will be increasingly important as we move forward. How can you future-proof your collections in 2021 and 2022? By planning projects now and securing funding, even if you have to finish the work at a later date.

Backstage can help with budget planning, including accounting for cost-of-living and inflation increases in our quotes. We can also issue pro forma invoices for libraries that have a “use it or lose it” budget. Let us help you be creative in your future project planning!

There’s still time to apply for grants! Let Backstage help you with a quote.

With the spread of COVID-19, many institutions have had to temporarily shut their doors and have their staff work remotely. Since this has led to collections being inaccessible for review, many grant programs are extending their deadlines for libraries to apply. As future planning becomes more difficult with unclear timelines for quarantines and upcoming budgets in flux, now is the perfect time to take advantage of these grant opportunities to seek additional funding for the new fiscal year. Backstage Library Works can assist you with pricing your projects for your applications, and discussing what to consider when narrowing your project scope.

One new program with an upcoming deadline is the NEH CARES: Cultural Organizations Grant. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has received supplemental funding to provide emergency relief to institutions and organizations working in the humanities that have been affected by the coronavirus.

In keeping with the aims of Congress in passing the CARES Act, proposed short-term projects should emphasize retaining or hiring humanities staff. Through this funding opportunity, NEH will award grants to museums, libraries and archives, historic sites, independent research institutions, professional organizations, colleges and universities, and other cultural organizations across the country to help these entities continue to advance their mission during the interruption of their operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. Applications are due by May 11, 2020, with a maximum award size of $300,000.

Looking for other options? Check out these online lists:

ALA Grants

Browse or search for grants awarded by ALA divisions, funding sponsored by major library vendors, research grants, and more.

IMLS Grant Programs

Many opportunities are available from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, a federally funded organization.

Solving the Funding Puzzle: A Quick-Start Guide to Library Funding Resources

A number of agencies specialize in funding projects at libraries, museums, and archives.

To learn how Backstage can help with your next project, call 1.800.288.1265, visit us online at, or send an email to

Cross-Referencing Two Authority Files to Match Generic Name Headings

Disambiguating names in a library catalog is one of the core purposes of authority control. Can triangulating data between VIAF and NAF improve matches when a generic name heading comes into play? We think so.

A generic name heading — an X00 field without a $q to show a fuller form of the name or $d containing dates — is notoriously tricky to match. Backstage can cross-reference the name to works in VIAF, the Virtual International Authority File, making a verified match more likely, and still return the preferred LC name authority that you expect.

Sometimes an authority record will have a cross reference that matches your name heading, but it will not actually be the same as the individual represented in your record. Even without a cross reference, sometimes the 1XX is still for a different individual. By incorporating a name/work search against VIAF, we’ve been able to successfully update these names more often and with greater accuracy.
Our process takes your generic 100 and 700 fields that contain a $a only and will search VIAF for that form of the name. If your form of the name is found, we then compare the title within the 245$a of your bib record against the associated works for that name in VIAF.

Most US libraries prefer the LC name authority, though, so if a match to the work is found in VIAF, we select the United States form of that name to pass formally through our authority matching process. The LC authority record will be returned to you as expected and your bibliographic heading will be updated with the authorized form.
The process for a name subject in the 600 field is similar, but due to the 245 $a not being present as a work in VIAF for these name subjects, we only search 600 fields that have a $t title present. We felt we could not accurately attempt to match a 600 without a $t in VIAF to confirm the correct form of heading. We can deliver one of our many free optional reports, the R24 report, to help you review changes to these generic name headings.

Of course, the success of this matching will only be as good as the data represented in VIAF. Through testing we’ve discovered that a work’s title may differ slightly in different contributors’ VIAF records, so some names may be updated while others aren’t.

Any headings that do not have a match in VIAF still go through our authority matching process as outlined within your library’s profile settings.

Backstage announces generic name headings now include VIAF name/work matching

Provo, Utah, May 21, 2019 – Backstage Library Works ( is pleased to announce exciting changes to its authority control and data cleanup processes. The generic name heading matching process now includes VIAF name/work matching. Continue reading

History Preserved in Perkasie, Pennsylvania

May 9, 2019 –  What do silk mills, brickyards, cigar manufacturing, baseball stitching, farming, the railroad, and a trolley all have in common? They are part of the unique and colorful history of Perkasie, Pennsylvania dating back to the 1800s.  News of the day included everything from who came to dinner on Friday night to the recent developments of local businesses.

In an effort to preserve this valuable history, the Perkasie Historical Society hired Backstage Library Works to microfilm the fragile newspapers.  Backstage microfilmed The Central News publications dating from 1881 to 1943, and the News-Herald  issues dating from 1943 to 2000.

Perkasie news has been an asset to residents and visitors alike.  Watch the fascinating report by Hayden Mitman, Bucks County Reporter for PBS39 News Tonight as he interviews Louise Doll, Vice President of the Perkasie Historical Society, and Richard Doll, Co-Curator of the Perkasie Historical Society.

To view the entire PBS39 News Tonight segment for April 29, 2019, click on the link below.  The Perkasie Historical Society report starts at marker 13:35.

To learn how Backstage can help with your next preservation project, call 1.800.288.1265, visit us online at, or send an email to