Request for Information (RFI)
There are two main issues involved with locating vendors. For the purpose of digitizing cultural heritage materials, there is an important differentiation:
- finding vendors with appropriate equipment
- finding qualified vendors with appropriate equipment
Finding qualified vendors is not as difficult as it may seem. Consider calling colleagues (friends, organizations with a similar project underway, organizations in the same geographic area, etc.) for recommendations. Other potential vendors may be identified by searching the Internet for final reports from digitization projects (grant requirements often demand a final report covering all aspects of the project, and organizations generally make these available on project websites).
Another useful mechanism for locating potential vendors is a Request for Information (RFI). An RFI can communicate specific requirements to potential vendors and seek information on their ability to meet those needs. RFIs can also be used by institutions with less firm plans, unsure of what services they can and/or may want to outsource. In these cases, a more open-ended statement can be compiled to solicit suggestions about services that vendors may be able to provide. The responses to such RFIs can help organizations clarify the tasks they must perform in-house while providing options for services to outsource.
The Request for Information (RFI)
The RFI should be considered part of a screening process to identify potential vendors. As stated earlier, not all vendors are able to provide all services.
The RFI should be considered the “casting net” — a tool to locate a number of interested vendors interested in and capable of responding to the next stage of identification, a Request for Proposal (RFP, or bid).
An RFI should include a brief description of the proposed project, including important specifics such as quantity, timing, and desired products. Vendors should be asked to respond to general questions about:
- their digitization (quality) capabilities,
- the kinds of materials they can handle;
- production capabilities (how many shifts, turnaround time, etc.);
- and other specifics about potential services.
Instructions to vendors should solicit contact information for a dedicated staff member if the RFI response generates questions. Make sure to allow three to four weeks for vendor responses!
For a list of vendors, see The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMI) Supplier directory