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Christina's LIS Rant
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
  The purpose of vendor interactions
Once again, these are only my opinions and do not reflect anyone else's. I'm a reference librarian, too, not the acquisitions person -- our acquisitions go through a series of very thoughtful, thorough, honest people.

The Librarian in Black has it wrong. I think she misunderstands many (most?) librarian-vendor interactions.

Yes, I talk to any/all relevant vendors at conferences. I eat their lunches, their deserts, their breakfasts, take their brochures, pens, and whatever else. I ask them pointed questions -- why does this work this way? Why are you using this model? What do you offer in...? I tell them my experiences and my customers' experiences and what they can do to their products to make our lives better. I'm equal opportunity -- I talk to our smaller society friends and our big for profit (evil empire) colleagues -- and they are colleagues. The little guys don't sponsor big events, but I still talk to them and listen to them. I see nothing wrong with being on friendly terms with these folks. I am a bit adversarial when they do something stupid or thoughtless. (Sometimes the vendor reps need that piece of chocolate cake for themselves after dealing with me!)

The mousepads, pens, etc., become (for the most part) giveaways (on the desk: can you borrow a pen? sure, here's a nice one from IEEE -- did you know that we have access to the full IEEE Xplore digital library?). We'd like to advertise our access to these products as much as the vendors want us to. My badge for work is dangling from one society's lanyard and another's retracting reel thingy.

I'm not sure I've ever said this "rant" would be unbiased -- in fact, let me state clearly, I DO NOT believe there is anyone on this earth who is unbiased. We all have our perspectives, our lenses... I do happen to like a couple of British societies because they're nice people and they seem to be working hard to get things right and maybe because they sponsor some SLA events. If their journals cease being useful to my customers, we'll end our relationships. Would we be more likely to purchase a product from a vendor who shows up where we are and sits with us to explain their product and quickly answers questions than one who says "let them come to us"? Of course. Be honest -- the more you know the better decision you can make. Running around to all of the sessions at a conference, the best talk time may be in a vendor event.

OTOH- I most certainly will not take cash from a vendor or any swag that's worth more than a t-shirt, unless it's a random drawing (I can't imagine them offering!). I am also not allowed to advertise any vendor's product with my place of work listed (no testimonials -- and I have been asked if they could attribute things on this blog to my greater mothership institution -- hah! of course not! I love my job...)

Once again, this is all from me, Christina Pikas, and not from anyone else.
 
Comments:
I agree with you completely, Christina. I do a lot of acquisitions, and a lunch or dinner (or a chotchka, sp?) is definitely them trying to bribe us to pay attention. But, I've often turned down companies that have wooed me the most and signed on for others that haven't done any wooing at all. I have served and continue to serve on vendor Library Advisory Groups, enjoying a few perks but also hoping to help make their products better. We need them just like they need us. And if that changes, well like I've written before, our main loyalty rests with our patrons and we have to decide what's best for them.
 
I’m happy to be disagreed with on this, but I think many people are reading more into my post than is actually there. And a lot of people haven’t even read the original post, and are just going off of the comments others make. You can certainly talk with a vendor. You have to in order to get stuff. You can certainly write for a journal that pays you. But is the journal telling you to write about a particular topic, perhaps one that shows their sister companies in a favorable light? Or is the vendor buying you dinner and giving you gifts to try to get you to buy their product? This is where I have a problem. And I agree–one can’t be perfectly objective. I never said that one could. It’s impossible. But there certainly are things that reduce one’s objectivity. That was my point.
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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