January 10, 2013

Gripes of a Dean

I was going to call this post, “Gripes of a Vendor,” but then I checked on the author, Rick Anderson, and found that he is not a member of the publishing community but a member of the library community. His post is in The Scholarly Kitchen, the blog of the Society of Scholarly Publishing, and it is titled, “Six Mistakes the Library Staff Are Making” (in dealing with vendor sales reps). The six mistakes? Rudeness, wasting the rep’s time, knee-jerk adversarialism, failure to prepare for meetings, failure to prepare the ground for product consideration (when you get a free trial), and, lastly, “putting political library concerns above patron needs.”

Just a couple of words about Anderson’s last complaint. He explains that he thinks that focusing on the way the system is structured is a distraction from the library’s mission and from service, that it is about long-term reform rather than short term satisfaction of patron demand. I think that for most librarians who are concerned about economic aspects of the information ecology where it impacts libraries, it is directly about the mission of the library and the ability to serve patrons, in the short term as well as the long term. Anderson’s perspective as a library dean may be a little bit different from that of front line staff, in two important ways. First, he lacks the front line staff members understanding of the nature of patron needs, and second, front line staff lack a full understanding of the relationship between libraries and vendors, and the economic side of the library’s functioning. I think that a lot can be gained from better communication among people who occupy different roles in library organizations, and I would say that scolding library staff for taking an approach that arises directly from their experience serving the public is not a very constructive way to go about it. Anderson says that he plans to write something on his point about “putting politics before patrons” in an upcoming post, which I look forward to seeing.

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3 Comments »

  1. Just a couple of words about Anderson’s last complaint. He explains that he thinks that focusing on the way the system is structured is a distraction from the library’s mission and from service, that it is about long-term reform rather than short term satisfaction of patron demand.

    Actually, what I said was much more nuanced than this, and I do hope that Library Juice readers will look at the posting itself rather than unthinkingly accepting this inaccurate characterization of it.

    Anderson’s perspective as a library dean may be a little bit different from that of front line staff, in two important ways. First, he lacks the front line staff members understanding of the nature of patron needs

    On the contrary. I’ve been an interim dean for less than a year; I spent the first 20 years of my career on the front line, working directly with vendors and serving patrons at the reference desk. While an acquisitions and serials librarian I wrote a book on vendor relations, and as dean I continue to work on the front desk. My perspective on vendor relations and patron needs may not be perfect, but it’s pretty well informed by real-world interaction and experience.

    Comment by Rick Anderson — January 10, 2013 @ 7:55 am

  2. Okay, thanks for that correction about your past experience.

    Comment by Rory Litwin — January 10, 2013 @ 8:03 am

  3. Also of interest is Rick’s companion article, Six Mistakes Your Sales Reps are Making, which tells some of the other side of the story.

    Comment by Alison — January 10, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

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