Notes of a Binge Thinker

Thoughts from NTLP's Executive Director

The Responsibility of the Library Vendor

My beautiful wife informed me last week that I have not posted to my blog since late May.  She is right.  I need to blog more often, so I will try to do better.  In the meantime, here is my latest Executive Director’s column.  Enjoy!

In this column, we will look at the Vendor’s role and responsibility in library advocacy, an ebook scenario where ebooks are just “another service” and the latest in happenings at our wonderful organization. 

Since it is summer and this is the time of the year to take a break from the routine, I am going to skip the Guideposts this month, and instead focus on hot topic that we all like to write about and discuss over coffee or drinks:  The demise of the library in American Society today. 

I am going to take a slightly different approach to this topic than most.  This month’s column is going to explore the role and responsibility of the library vendor in times where the public library has lost some of its luster and value to mainstream America. 

Are public libraries in trouble?  I would argue that there have been tough times for libraries before so we might be on the upswing of the pendulum at the moment and are posed for times when the pendulum will swing the other direction and times will get better.  However, during this downswing, I have noticed something that I never had during other difficult times.  The library vendor industry does not do much for libraries when times get bad.  I found this peculiar and interesting since they depend so much on the consistent funding of libraries to support their businesses. 

So, I did a little research.  I found a group within the Texas Library Association, TPals, where library vendors can come together to network and share, but I did not find anything about their efforts to assist libraries to promote themselves.  I never did find anything on the national level; although I am sure something like this must exist. 

What is my point?  My point is that libraries and vendors exist in a symbiotic relationship.  Libraries need vendors to provide the services to their communities and many of our vendors need us because we are one of their largest customers (with some vendors we are their only customers).  When times get bad for libraries, why do we not see vendors joining together to help the libraries in advocating the library to the community, to the elected officials, or to the voters?  What are they afraid of? 

I am not saying that library vendors should take on this chore single-handedly.  Instead, they should do what other industry groups have done and create a nonprofit (if one does not already exist, but I simply cannot find it, which is a statement in itself) to promote their best interests.  Here is the mission statement from the Outdoor Industry Association.

Outdoor Industry Association®
Ensuring the growth and success of the outdoor industry

Founded in 1989, Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is the premier trade association for companies in the active outdoor recreation business. OIA provides trade services for over 4000 manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, sales representatives and retailers in the outdoor industry. Outdoor Industry Association seeks to ensure a healthy and diverse specialty retail and supply chain based on quality, innovation and service. To this end, OIA works diligently to raise the standards of the industry; increase participation in outdoor recreation to strengthen business markets; provide support services to improve member profitability; represent member interests in the legislative/regulatory process; promote professional training and education; support innovation; and offer cost-saving member benefits.

There are other examples of industries promoting themselves through unbiased nonprofit groups.  I am not sure why the library vendors have not done the same thing for themselves, or if they have, why it is so silent at this time. 

With all this in mind, I want to challenge our library vendor friends to come together and establish a nonprofit group that will promote the industry and at the same time assist libraries in building value in their communities.  It does not have to be much, but think about the impact that PR campaigns have had in the conscious minds of Americans today.  “What’s for dinner?”  Got Milk?  These are just two examples of how a well-placed PR campaign can build a brand for an industry and help to elevate that industry to a new level in the minds of our culture.  ALA has done something like this with their Read campaign, but I wonder if it is time to come up with something new to spark interest in our libraries. 

Next month, I will tackle the guideposts again.  It was fun to take a month off and have my little rant. 

Read the rest of my column here.


Written by amwlkaw

July 12, 2011 at 10:49 am

Posted in Misc

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Just a quick shout out to Texas Book Consignments for their “out of the box” thinking! I realize they’re not a “traditional” library vendor, but the service they provide is both beneficial and innovative for the library world!


    July 12, 2011 at 11:15 am

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: