Tag Archives: library vendors

You say potato, I say zucchini…

potatoBut that doesn’t mean we get to fling vegetables at each other.  Today  I’m talking about gaps in vendor-librarian communications.  Let’s be honest, many librarians and vendors are not on the best of terms.

Librarians see vendors as money-seeking vulchers who take advantage of their altruistic public institutions by locking them into long term contracts that allow for price increases, all the while decreasing customer service.

Vendors cringe at the thought of going to conference, knowing they will have to cope with library staff people only visiting their booth for free swag and not making eye contact with them.  It’s like being a leper in a business suit.

I was a library director at one time.  Let me tell you my pet peeves:
 – getting calls while I’m on desk without the vendor asking “is this a good time?” or, “are you at your reference desk right now?  Do you need me to call back?”
 – launching into a long winded sales speech without pause for a breath so that I cannot take a moment to ask a question or make comment.
 – not being patient as I weigh the pros and cons of prices and features of products.  I once heard a vendor mumble with exasperation “Jee-sus” under her breath as I asked her to help me find different ways to manage a $5000 price increase in a database that my library absolutely had to have.  Ironically, it was a religious database, but I didn’t appreciate her tone one bit. 
 – assuming I’ve got a high level of technical expertise or none at all.  There’s got to be a polite way to ask a librarian what type of technology skills they have, so that neither party is frustrated.
 – dealing with vendors who stand in the aisles at conference practically pouncing on you as you walk by – I am not a mouse and you are not a cat…stand aside and if your booth is informative, I’ll be drawn to it and I’ll talk to you, trust me.
 – vendor websites that are hard to search, informational materials that aren’t informative at all, calling vendors when you want to buy their product and they don’t ever call back…oh the list goes on and on…

Now I work for a vendor – Evanced Solutions – and I can share with you that perspective as well:
– It’s really scary when you sell a library system software and then call the technical contact to check in and see how things are going and they have no idea what you’re talking about. 
– In keeping with that thought, I’ve got two words: project management.  There are libraries that excel at project management – they get software, form committees or training teams and two weeks later they’re using the software and rocking it out.  Then I’ve got libraries that I have to call and beg to use the product, but no one has taken the implementation lead, so software sits paid for but un-used.  In this economy, if you have the luxury of buying software and not using it then you are lucky.
– It’s my responsibility at Evanced to call our customers and check in to see how things are going.  There are times I get a very blunt “I don’t have time for this, goodbye”, even after I’ve made it clear that I just am checking in quickly.  Is saying “Thank you for your call, but I’m busy at the moment, can you call back later or email me?”
– Which brings me to this point: librarians sometimes treat vendors the way really awful patrons treat librarians.  You know the patrons who are especially rude to you, or call you with a question and then tell you that you’re taking to long to give them an answer though you’ve only be chatting for a few minutes?  Yeah, I’ve had librarians be terribly mean to me, practically bringing tears to my eyes.
– If a library does a call for proposals, and we don’t win the bid, please…please…please tell the vendor why they didn’t win.  We can’t become a better company and develop better products if we don’t know why you chose someone else over us.  We take the time to fill out the endless bid forms, please just take five minutes to write us an email telling us how we could have done better.
– And lastly, there’s the cost versus features debate.  Who doesn’t love really awesome software and databases?  I do, I do!  But the cost, oooh, the cost.  At Evanced we look at our product and we realize it’s not perfect.  It really rocks and does cool stuff, but it isn’t quite right for everyone, we know.  We’re working on some major changes to improve the software in drastic and freaking awesome ways.  But the catch is that we’re also trying to not raise our prices (We haven’t raised our prices in seven years for those of you keeping track…)  Recently someone mentioned to us that maybe our software isn’t as good as it could be because we have no competition and therefore have the market “locked”.  But that’s not true.  We haven’t been able to make all the changes we’ve wanted to because it would involve hiring more programmers and technical specialists.  And they have families.  That like to eat and have a home.  So we have to pay them.  And then we’d have to charge libraries for the price increase.  So, for us, it becomes a fight of “Do we make all the changes we’d like to make to our software to make everyone happy?’  or “Do we build and rebuild over time and then save our pennies to finally pay for some positive major changes that don’t drastically increase prices?”  In trying to help out libraries, we sometimes end up being told we’re the bad guys. 

If we’re doing something wrong or you’re mad at us, can you just tell us nicely please?  I know some vendors are rude to you (that’s a whole other post) but some of us are nice and want to help.  Just approach us with the issue and we’ll see what we can do.  And if you’re not happy with the way we’ve worked with you, then you can email me at cayar at evancedsolutions dot com.

**FYI – this is my personal opinion so don’t blame Evanced for what I wrote.  I’m just pointing out some things I’ve noticed and want to share.  Open discussion doesn’t hurt and librarians and vendors need to talk.  Maybe we should hire Dr. Phil….

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Busy Bee

Bzzz Bzz Bzzz

Bzzz Bzz Bzzz

I can’t stand bees.  I’m highly allergic.  Just thinking about them makes my throat more than a little itchy.  ACK! But I can’t think of a better parallel to how life has been in recent days. So, yes, dear readers, I will say I have been a busy, busy bee.

 

Here’s a report of library type things that I haven’t been able to keep my hands out of recently:
I’m writing an article for YALS about how the recession is affecting teen services in libraries.  Anyone care to comment?
I’ve been working on the Infoquest text messaging reference pilot project, set to launch in the middle of the month.
My Emerging Leaders project might just cause me to snap, but do you know what saves me?  My very cool team and the fact that the responses we are getting are pretty fascinating.  I’ll be sure to summarize what we find when the project is done.  (We’ve been researching how rural libraries build community relations and what resources they use to improve those relations…)
And I’m preparing for ALA Annual Conference.  Dear reader, let me tell you:  Conference is a tad stressy if you’re a librarian.  When you’re a vendor, it’s just flat out stressy.  I never appreciated how much work goes into pulling together a booth and such, and I’m not even doing the lion’s share of the work (yay for great bosses).  Perhaps part of it is that I am presenting several times (all for Emerging Leaders) plus working at the booth. 
If I can say anything about Evanced it is that we love our presentations.  You show us a good presentation topic and we’ll show you a staff that’s willing to present.  I am looking forward to it all, however.  A girl needs a good adrenaline rush and my goodness – to be busy AND be in the bustling Windy City – oh how cosmopolitan it all sounds!  (Note to self, channel inner Katharine Hepburn for the week…)
In non-library related events, I’m taking a cheese making class.  A girl needs cheese, right?  Will report back on that one as well.
And in blog stats, the things that make my blog most popular, in the order of most popular to least:
  1. Amelia Earhart
  2. My semi-mockery of a prayer for Librarians
  3. Libraries and sustainable design

I can’t really make that up.  It’s true as true can be.  Maybe I just need to focus on an Amelia Earhart blog.  If my cheese post becomes most popular, then I’m really going to question my career choice. 

Have a rockin’ week my friends. 

Nice vendors, unicorns, and other things you should believe in…

See, unicorns are real...

See, unicorns are real...

ALA Midwinter is in about three weeks.  I’m pretty excited for it.  I’ve never been to an ALA conference, Midwinter or otherwise.  However, this will be the first time that I’ve gone to any conference with the title “vendor”.  In some circles of librarianship I might as well be a leper.  I am, they say, on the dark side.  As if Darth Vader is my drinking buddy and my idea of a good time is laundering money and turning people into speed bumps vis-a-vis Al Capone.

Though I disagree with those Debbie Downers, though I don’t believe a thing they say, and while I will support my choices to the end…I am a tad nervous at the thought of potentially dealing with some overanxious, loud, hyperintellectual who is hellbent on arguing with me about vendors being phooey.  I’ve seen those people.  They need to get out more.  You know who I’m talking about.

Now as a librarian, I will admit to poor behavior towards vendors.  My friends would always ask if I wanted to go to the vendor area and I would say no and coach them to “keep their head down and not make eye contact!”   In hindsight, people in glass houses should not throw stones, and I now realize I was lobbing boulders.

It’s an interesting thing to call libraries who own the software made by my company.  They are shocked that I am calling simply to check in and see if everything is okay.  When I explain that they need not rush off the phone, that I just want to say hello, to make sure that they are happy…they respond with as much belief as if I had said I was actually a dancing unicorn with magical powers.  They cannot believe that I am not calling them to sell them more…to tell them that they need an expensive upgrade or that they just have to have the newest version of something.  Now, many, many, many libraries are exceedingly kind…they love the software and by proxy love me.  As I’ve said in the past, it’s a great feeling and I often find myself smiling dumbly to myself, lost in a sense of happiness that I get to help libraries for living.  It is a painfully geeky confession…someone cue the sappy music.  But every so often, I get those wary libraries, the type that treat me with the same caution one uses when encountering a person who has just announced they just left an asylum.  Politely distant and speaking in a high-pitched tone…slightly strangulated with fear.

I plan to do a whole series of posts on vendor/librarian relations sometime.  That will make me popular, I’m sure.  </snarkiness>  But if you see me at conference, say hi.  I will not bite.  Or sell you anything.  No, seriously.

Aaaaand…we’re back!

Where the hell have I been?

Well first, I made a long move from Detroit to Kansas City with two cars, a UHaul trailer, my parents, and a dog.  Lessons Learned: Parents are great (thanks mom and dad!), dogs have an uncanny ability to know when you are ordering ice cream at McDonalds, GPS sometimes lies – especially when you are driving on chaotic interstates through major metropolitan areas.

But then it gets even better, because this week I started my new job in…Indianapolis.  Huh?  Yeah, that’s right.  Through the power of telecommuting, I am going to be working in Indianapolis from Kansas City.  This week I flew to Indy to learn about my new job.

“But Christine…”, you say, “what type of library job allows you to telecommute in such a way?”
To which I respond…
“A job with a neat little company that provides libraries with software…”
and then you say…
“Don’t you mean a vendor?  Have you become a…gasp…vendor?”
and I say…
“Simmer down now!  Yes, I’m working for a vendor, but it’s going to be a learning experience for me, and for you too, my dear readers.  And I promise no sales pitches, because that is not my thing.”
and you respond
“Tell me more!”
And I say…
“Okay, I will tomorrow!”

😉