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.