I was just reading the May 1st, 2009 issue of Library Journal and an interesting article about “Publishers and Librarians: Two Cultures, One Goal”. I came across some sentences in the article that really frustrate me, both as a librarian and a vendor. Those were: “There are license agreements to figure out and phone calls from vendors for new databases we can’t afford. (I have never bought anything over the phone. Are they crazy?).”
The statement is a dichotomy. It is further exacerbated given the subtitle on the article – “two cultures, one goal”. The author is right in the subtitle in making the point that we’ve got to work together, librarians and vendors, toward the same goal(s). Which is why we have to change the kind of thinking shown in those sentences.
Most vendors will tell you that one of their largest costs; usually right behind the cost of the staff to produce products, is the travel budget to sell those products. If we can work together to reduce the vendor travel cost, we can work together to reduce the cost of those products. Why are vendors calling you on the phone and trying to sell you things? It’s not because they’re crazy, and in this time of economic crisis, it’s not because they’re trying to increase our profit margins, it’s because they’re trying to make those products more affordable for you to buy. If you can’t afford to buy a product, it does the vendor no good. Vendors have to sell to survive. So please pause to think about all the costs created with the typical library purchasing behaviors (multiple on-site sales calls, demo’s, RFI’s, complicated procurement and contracting processes) and realize that the vendor must turn around and cover those costs within the purchase price of those products. You want cheaper products, products you can afford? Work with the vendors to reduce the costs of selling those products.
The bottom line for vendors serving this community is that if you, as libraries and librarians don’t succeed, neither do we. We understand that. The next time a vendor salesperson calls you on the phone seeking to find out if a product solves a need you have, rather than concluding they’re crazy, please pause to think if they’re being responsive to your economic situation and trying to help you be successful. That would be “we” thinking instead of “they” thinking. We’re in this together. In this time of economic crisis, it’s time we for us to get rid of “they” thinking.