The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts manages a contract that allows Texas libraries to purchase books, audiobooks, textbooks, audiovisual materials, and cataloging services from a number of vendors with negotiated discounts. Roughly 500 Texas libraries use this SmartBuy contract, 715-M2, and on average spend about $8 million per year on materials from the selected vendors. The contract was last bid in 2014. It expired in August 2019 and was extended through February 29, 2020. State law prohibits further extensions.
The Comptroller issued a new solicitation and is currently evaluating responses from qualifying vendors. Unfortunately, the current contract expires tomorrow, February 29, and new contracts will most likely not be in place until April 2020. Although the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is not involved in the solicitation, we are monitoring the situation as it affects us, too. To that end, we’ve put together some responses to some of the questions libraries have asked us about this contract.
- Why didn’t the solicitation get posted sooner to avoid any lapse?
The Comptroller’s office was of course aware that the contract was due to expire and had begun working on drafting a new solicitation last summer. However, in analyzing data about how libraries purchase materials, they realized that they needed to look more closely at changes in the publishing industry. They reviewed solicitations by other states and interviewed individual providers to find out what did and didn’t work. They also looked at whether e-books and additional services of interest to libraries could be included, eventually deciding to leave those materials out of the solicitation. In the end, the solicitation couldn’t be posted early enough to avoid interruption.
- What vendors are affected?
The vendors with lapsed contracts are:
- Baker & Taylor, LLC
- Brodart Company
- Complete Book & Media Supply, LLC
- Findaway World, LLC
- Ingram Library Services, Inc
- Midwest Library Service
- Midwest Tape, LLC
- Proquest, LLC
- Taped Editions dba Tei Landmark Audio
- Textbook Warehouse
- How much were the discounts?
The discounts varied by vendor and by category. The most recent price list is attached to this post. New discount rates will not be available until awards are complete.
- What will change with the new solicitation?
It’s hard to know for sure, but all of the categories of materials that were included in the old contracts are included in the new solicitation. Vinyl records were added as a category. Brief MARC records must now be included at no charge. Item processing services, like mylar jackets, DVD/CD cases, RFID and theft deterrent strips, are now broken out, which may simplify ordering. The contract will also be brought up to date with various elements of Texas purchasing law.
- What can we do while there is no contract in place?
Libraries have reported that their vendors plan to honor the discounts included in the expired contract. Please contact your vendors for more information.
- Are libraries required to purchase materials from this contract?
TSLAC and other state agencies (including public universities) are required to use the Comptroller’s contracts first. The expectation is that the Comptroller is able to negotiate better pricing than any single institution would be able to get on its own. Exemptions apply for things like the TexShare databases and other resource sharing items.
For local governments, Comptroller contracts are basically a convenience. This includes most public libraries and school libraries in the state. Local Government Code section 252.022 provides an exemption for “a purchase of rare books, papers, and other library materials for a public library” along with many other exemptions. This is pretty broad, and basically gives libraries the freedom to purchase library materials in the way that seems best to them, if the amount of the purchases is under $50,000. Purchases over $50,000 may require you to do your own solicitation.
We’ll post something on this blog as soon as the new contracts are announced. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attachment: Texas SmartBuy contract 715-M2 (Excel)