Managing Subscriptions/Databases: Starting Out and Maintaining Them

Setting up subscriptions for databases and any other software that the school needs is typically the responsibility of the librarian. At a founding school this has proved to be a particularly time consuming and at times painful process, trying to keep all the emails to vendors, passwords, invoices, etc. all organized for every single subscription that needs to be setup. Through this process I learned a lot, which I wanted to share with you. I think that this can help even those who have been managing subscriptions for years at their current library. 

Contacting Vendors

To start up subscriptions you need to first get quotes from all the possible subscriptions you want to have at your school, you need the exact same information from each one so why not use a template. 

Vendor Email Template:

[Insert Name of vendor]

I am the [Insert Job Title] at [school name] in [city and country name]. We would like a subscription/license for our school. 

The subscription/license needs to cover:

[Choose an Option]

grades K-12

grades K-5

grades 6-8

grades 6-12

grades 9-12 

grade 12

[Choose an Option]

We have approximately 500 students enrolled in the school K-12 

We have approximately 500 students enrolled in the school K-5

We have approximately 500 students enrolled in the school 6-12

 

We would like a full quote, bank payment information for a wire transfer, and a timeline for the access to the subscription or software. 

If you have any follow-up questions, send them to : [email address]

 

 

Thank you and have a great week, 

 

 

[Your Name and Title]

 

 

[include your school's mailing address and phone number]

   

[For your reference, as some subscriptions will require this information, it's easier to keep it in one place]

Number of Teachers:

ES: 50

HSMS: 50

(Use Round Numbers so we can have fake accounts for testing etc. )

Contacting Vendors

To contact vendors, there were multiple people at our school involved, which may be the case at your school. This may include more than one librarian, technology staff (i.e. tech coach, IT Director), and any other staff members that are involved in this process. 

To keep your inbox tidier, as many, many emails will start rolling in and it very quickly becomes easy to miss information with so many other things to do in the day. To solve this problem we decided to create a Google Group with an email account called softwaresubscriptions@[our school]. It looked like this:

Go to google.groups.com (your school needs to be using Google to do this):

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After clicking My groups, a full list of all your Google groups appears, here is what the software subscription group looked like:

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 10.44.40.png

This can easily be set up so that all people involved in the subscriptions receive just one email a day from the Google group that has all the emails in one spot. It is so much easier to manage this way. You can respond to emails from the group too, which allows you to see our colleague's responses to vendors in these emails. Now you know that a particular subscription has been acted on without having to send an additional email to your colleagues to let them know. This also avoids multiple people emailing the vendor responses to the same question. 

Here is an example, on Dec. 13 we would have received 4 individual emails about subscriptions, but instead we get 1 email from the Google group. When you click on the Google group you can then read through each one. Many vendors start sending promotional materials too, this saves you from wasting time sifting through all of those too! 

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We used a shared Google Drive to put all the correct and completed invoices in before sending them off in a batch to the purchasing department. 

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 10.58.34.png

Be careful to double check:

  • school name and address is correct
  • date of subscription is correct
  • number of students/staff is correct

You would be surprised (or maybe not) at how many of these subscription invoices came back with completely wrong information. Some started our subscription for the following year, some put the wrong school name, some put significantly more students onto the subscription than requested. It was very time consuming to keep emailing back and forth to get them all straightened out.

Now, most subscriptions should give you access to their product right away, you shouldn't have to wait for the payment to go through. So feel free to email them and request access as soon as possible. You're going to have a lot to set up still! 

Now to Start Setting Each Subscription Up

Here is my list of things to do for each subscription. I made a Google Sheet for myself with each one. You can use this and edit it to suit your school's needs:

Google Sheet with Chart of Information I need

 

For Each Subscription I will need the following information

  • Admin Log in
  • Settings Configured
  • Remote Log in Set up
  • Integrated w/ LMS
  • Promo Materials Print
  • Promo Materials Digital
  • Icon on Website
  • Shown to Staff
  • Shown to Students
  • Taught to Dept.
  • Which Budget

This requires more emailing, so why not send one with all of the questions. In my experience, you never get all the answers that you need in one go, but if that happens you can just copy and paste the unanswered questions and send them again. 

Email Template for Getting the Subscription Set up

 

[Insert Name of vendor]

I am the [Insert Job Title] at [school name] in [city and country name]. We would like to set up our subscription/license for our school. 

1. Please send the administrative account details.

2. Please set all accounts to automatically log out at the maximum allowed time for your subscription.

3. How do we use your subscription remotely? Please send log in details, or URL

4. How can we integrate your subscription with our Destiny Follett Library Management system? Please send us any username, password or verified URL that we would need to do this. 

5. Do you have any promotional materials that we can print off? Posters, brochures, etc.?

6. Do you have any digital promotional materials? 

We use the following social media sites [list these in case they have materials specific to certain sites i.e. Facebook banner].

[include a file of your school's fonts, colours and logos in case they have tailored materials available for schools - you'd be surprised actually how many can do this i.e. OverDrive, EBSCO]

7. Do you have any teaching materials that we can use? For example instructional posters, videos, etc. [I have found that vendors sometimes have other materials that I wasn't able to find by looking through their website]

Thank you,

[insert name]

 

Again, I will just keep copying and pasting questions that were missed in follow up emails until they respond. It's about saving your time. Time is valuable, especially in doing things like setting up subscriptions. It's very thankless, "invisible" work that no one notices until there's a problem. 

The last section of things to do for each subscription is not for emailing to vendors, this is a list to myself. 

  • Icon on Website - Have I added this to my LibGuide/website/school portal/Destiny Follett homepage?
  • Shown to Staff - Have I shown this to staff in assembly/staff meeting? Through email?
  • Shown to Students - Have I shown this to students in assembly? Through email?
  • Taught to Dept. - Have I shown relevant departments the subscriptions that are specific to their subject? Citation tools, Read out loud features, and any other features they may not know about that could be beneficial 
  • Which Budget - which department will pay for the subscription? Just because subscriptions are managed centrally by the library, does not mean that these necessarily need to come off the library budget

Destiny Follett Integration

For a complete list of the subscriptions that can be integrated into Destiny Follett check out this link:

Complete List of Databases that integrate with Destiny's OneSearch

I always email vendors if they can integrate with Destiny regardless if they are on the list or not. If they say they don't integrate, I always ask if they would consider it in the future. In these emails I will include the International Support from Destiny Follett in the same email (save time!) so that both parties know that we are interested in this partnership. 

Setting Up OneSearch Instructions from Follett (PDF)

This actually really easy to do, but it can be a little tricky. So I thought I'd share a few things I learned here. Here's where you add databases:

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 10.01.28.png

Click on the edit button beside OneSearch Database Information. From here you can start selecting the ones you've subscribed to add. This gets complicated when you subscribe to major ones like EBSCO that have all kinds of separate databases. 

These need to be chosen individually (do not click select all at the top) You can only do 15 at a time and this will cause an error. 

Don't click select all. The username and password for this are different from any log in that you would use for students, so make sure you included this question in your email so you get the correct username and password right away to connect Destiny with the subscription.

Don't click select all. The username and password for this are different from any log in that you would use for students, so make sure you included this question in your email so you get the correct username and password right away to connect Destiny with the subscription.

 

Instead you need to go one by one and select which ones you want to allow access to like this:

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 09.57.33.png
Test them all first, the screen should look similar to this if it's working correctly. 

Test them all first, the screen should look similar to this if it's working correctly. 

I was amazed at how many EBSCO databases we had, we only actually subscribed to a couple of packages, EBSCO middle years, history reference center, literary points of view, novelist plus, however, there are all these separate ones that come with it that I didn't know about. 

So make sure you ask the vendor for these huge subscriptions, which ones you have paid for so you don't miss any. I got back a very clear email of all the ones I should add when I asked: 

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 10.00.09.png

I would never have known to add all of these! I'm so happy I asked. 

One Last Tip

I never send out subscription to the whole school right away after we get access. I always send this out to a test group first. This could be done by using a subscription with a class first, or emailing it out to a few staff/students to try out. I give it a week, if there are no problems then I roll it out to the whole school. 

I have found the VERY often there are problems. Some of these problems may be completely out of your control and there was nothing you did to cause them, however, the whole school is going to be putting pressure on you to sort them out ASAP. With working at a school in Asia, we tend to have slower response times from vendors (i.e. different holidays, time zones, etc.). Some problems take days and several emails to sort out. It's better to have a smaller group that is frustrated rather than everyone!

Hope this was helpful. Please let me know if you know of any other ways to make managing subscriptions easier that I missed.

Kendra Perkins

www.TheInspiredLibrarian.com

Ambassador of China for the ILN