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I must assume that I was asked to talk on the topic of "Library Vendors: How Do They Use Us?" because I have spent a portion of my professional career on either side of the issue--12 years as a librarian and 11 years with Abel and then Blackwell North America (B/NA). With that in mind, I think my speech could also be titled, "Librarian at Risk." I came here with many friends, librarians, subscription agents and book sellers, and may leave with few or none.
I am reminded of a story Jim Govan recently told at a conference when he found himself in a similar situation. The story involved an elderly carpenter, who at the age of 80 was still going strong. When asked to what he attributed his longevity, his response was, "When my mouth is full of nails, I don't inhale." I'm about to inhale.
Yes, vendors are worth the money libraries pay them. I will begin with that statement and then both support it and criticize it. Most of my remarks are more appropriate to the book selling end of our business. There are two reasons why this is the case. First, book selling is the business I know best. Second, can there by any doubt that the serials vendor is anything other than invaluable? In an age when subscription lists number in the thousands no library is even going to consider direct ordering of most of their titles, nor should they.
Actually the vendors of books also know this and over the years many have expanded their services to include standing orders Le., monographs in series. During my years in the business, I always thought standing order fulfillment was the most valuable service Abel and B/NA provided academic libraries. After the development of approval plans, the standing orders became even more important. The phenomenal growth of the Abel approval plan can in large measure be attributed to the Company's success at integrating approvals and standing orders. Also remember that book vendors are fully cognizant that once they have captured a library's standing order business, they have got you.