Once vendors capable of providing necessary services are identified, the next and most important step is the creation of a project Request for Proposal (RFP).
The RFP is not the same thing as an RFI; it is a detailed description of the project and detailed information about the tasks that will be outsourced to vendors.
The main goal of an RFP is to convey the terms and conditions of an institution’s digitization project to potential service providers. It also provides formal documentation that will be a key component of the final digital-imaging service contract.
RFPs should address the specific requirements of each project. They should be broad enough to allow for different vendors to propose alternative methodologies where appropriate, but specific enough to ensure that vendors understand the standards that they will be required to meet related to the services they perform.
An RFP should include:
- A brief description of the nature of the project and services being outsourced
- A description of the nature of the materials the vendor will receive (original documents, photos, audio tapes, video tapes, digital files, etc.)
- Technical specifications
- Conversion requirements (bit depth, sampling rate, etc.)
- Standards to be met or against which work will be evaluated (conversion guidelines, encoding standards)
- File formats to be produced (TIFF, AIFF, XML, etc.)
- Delivery medium (magnetic tape, CDs, DVDs, files via FTP, etc.)
- Procedural requirements
- Handling requirements
- Billing requirements
- Managerial requirements
- Project time lines
- Security, storage, insurance, bonding
- Information about how RFP responses will be evaluated
Within the RFP, include information about general institutional guidelines related to proposal submission instructions and formal conditions. Submission instructions should explain that vendors need to provide detailed responses to all questions within the RFP. Providing a set of questions or points to which all vendors must respond makes the process of evaluation and comparison much easier.
The following issues that should be addressed in a vendor response:
- Names of the hardware and software proposed for use in conversion
- Specifications related to their quality-control procedures
- Descriptions of their production capacity and documentation that they can accomplish the work at the specified quality within the time frame
- Explanation of how delivery of materials and files will be accomplished (vendor pickup, courier, commercial shipping, FTP of files, or other)
- Description of environmental controls in the facility if that is an issue for original materials
- Name and qualifications of the project manager
- References for similar work done for other libraries, archives, or museums
- Submission of a sample that represents a fair cross section of the materials, including both easy and difficult items
- A price proposal
- Prices in specified units of measure, for instance, per page, per image, or whatever is appropriate
- Costs for any additional services such as data input, cost of storage or delivery media, shipping, insurance
- Determination of whether prices are firm for the duration of the project
- Suggestions for alternative methods to accomplish the project at the same level of quality, if applicable
Be sure to budget at least four to eight weeks for responses. Four weeks should be considered minimal and eight weeks should be considered minimal around grant deadlines. Remember, qualified vendors receive many RFPs for their services. If you want reliable, careful responses from vendors, make sure you allow them time to prepare them. And don’t be afraid to telephone the vendor with questions. Vendors may have questions or require clarification on items within the RFP. Include contact information for the project manager in the RFP to facilitate this process.
The above information came from Northeast Document Conservation Center Outsourcing and Vendor Relations.
- Guide to Developing a Request for Proposal for the Digitization of Video (and More) by Chris Lacinak, Audiovisual Preservation Solutions, 2013-10-09
- Digitizing Video for Long-Term Preservation: An RFP Guide and Template by Barbara Goldsmith Preservation & Conservation Department of the NYU LIbraries, 2013.
- Library of Congress RFP used for American Memory