LITA Updates, March 11, 2016

In this issue of LITA Updates

  • Hello from Your New Executive Director, Jenny Levine
  • 2016 Election runs March 15 – April 22
  • LITA at ALA Annual (Hear Dr. Safiya Noble Speak at our President’s Program)
  • Meet LITA Emerging Leader Melissa Stoner
  • Current Online Learning Opportunities
  • New #LITAchats on Twitter

SAVE THE DATE: This year’s LITA Forum will be November 17-20 in Fort Worth, Texas! More information coming soon.

jenny levine - small
Jenny Levine

Hello from Your New Executive Director

Just a quick wave to introduce myself as the still-feeling-very-new Executive Director of LITA. I started in August and while I’m still learning the ins and outs of our community, my favorite things are feedback and suggestions. If you have either of these, please don’t hesitate to contact me in whatever way works best for you.; w: 312-280-4267; m/sms: 708-955-4967
Hangouts: shiftedlibrarian; Twitter: @shifted
Read my How I Work post on LITA Blog

2016 Election LITA homepage graphic - medium

Watch your email next week for your ballot, and help shape the future of LITA by voting in the 2016 election. Online voting will be open March 15 – April 22, with results announced on April 29. Find out more about the LITA and ALA elections on our website.

Candidates for LITA Offices

ALA Candidates who are LITA members

  • Presidential candidate
    • Christine Lind Hage
  • Council candidates
    • Robert Banks
    • Ana Elisa de Campos Salles
    • Mario M. Gonzalez
    • Mel Gooch
    • Jennifer Rushton Jamison
    • Chulin Meng
    • Kathryn Miller
    • Scott Piepenburg
    • Lauren Pressley
    • Colby Mariva Riggs
    • Edward L. Sanchez
    • Jules Shore

alaac16 banner 2

We’re excited to announce that Dr. Safiya Noble is our 2016 President’s Program speaker. We also have three practical preconferences at Annual covering Digital Privacy and Security, Islandora for Managers, and Technology Tools and Transforming Librarianship, plus 20 programs including the always valuable Top Tech Trends program.

Learn more about all of the LITA happenings at Annual 2016 (early bird registration for the conference closes at noon Central Time on Tuesday, March 16th).

Meet LITA Emerging Leader Melissa Stoner

Melissa Stoner
Melissa Stoner

Have you met Melissa Stoner yet? If not, this is a great time to read her interview on LITA Blog because she’s our 2016 Emerging Leader.

Melissa works at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with the Lied Library Digital Collections, where she is the Workflow Manager for the Nevada Digital Newspaper Project. “I am Navajo and lived in Shiprock, New Mexico, on the Navajo Nation until I was 24…. I hope that in some way my being an Emerging Leader could inspire others from a similar background.”

Melissa is working with three other Emerging Leaders to develop an archiving program for the Map and Geospatial Information Round Table (MAGIRT). Her project, along with the others from this year’s cohort, will be presented at a Poster Session at the ALA Annual Conference on Friday, June 24, in Orlando, FL.

Current Online Learning Opportunities

The Why and How of HTTPS for Libraries (webinar)
Presenter: Jacob Hoffman-Andrews
Offered: March 14, 2016

Yes, You Can Video: A how-to guide for creating high-impact instructional videos without tearing your hair out (repeat) (webinar)
Presenters: Anne Burke and Andreas Orphanides
Offered: April 12, 2016

Universal Design for Libraries and Librarians (online course)
Presenters: Jessica Olin and Holly Mabry
Offered: August 1 – September 9, 2016

We’ll be adding more spring opportunities on our website.

Newest LITA Guide

Digitizing Flat Media - smallDigitizing Flat Media: Principles and Practices
by Joy M. Perrin

LITA members can use code RLLITA20 to receive a 20% discount.

New #LITAchats on Twitter

The Membership Development Committee has started hosting tech topic tweet-ups using #LITAchat and hosted by LITA experts, IGs, and Committees. The online chats will happen on the last Friday of each month around lunch time. Keep an eye on @ALA_LITA for announcements of future topics or search #LITAchat to see previous chats & topics.

Recent Posts on the LITA Blog

I’m a Librarian. Of tech, not books.
“Looking back, I wonder what would I have wanted to know before going into Systems, and most importantly, would it have changed my decision to do so, or rather, to stay? So what is it to be a Systems Librarian?…”

Google Cardboard
“The low cost, minimal learning curve, and interactivity of Cardboard make it the perfect tool to engage your library patrons.”

10 iPhone Tricks Every Librarian Should Know
“We can’t be expected to know everything about every device, but it’s always good to have a few tools ready at our disposal. Here are some handy tricks to keep at the ready if anyone comes at you with an iPhone and demands service.”

Thanks for reading, and please contact me anytime with questions, suggestions, or concerns.

Jenny Levine
Executive Director
Library and Information Technology Association (LITA)

I’m a Librarian. Of tech, not books.

Image from
Image from

When someone finds out I’m a librarian, they automatically think I know everything there is to know about, well, books. The thing is, I don’t. I got into libraries because of the technology. My career in libraries started with the take off, a supposed library replacement, of ebooks. Factor in the Google “scare” and librar*s  were going to be done forever. Librar*s were frantic to debunk that they were no longer going to be useful, insert perfect time and opportunity to join libraries and technology.

I am a Systems Librarian and the most common and loaded question I get from non-librarians is (in 2 parts), “What does that mean? and What do you do?” Usually this resorts to a very simple response:
I maintain the system the library sits on, the one that gives you access to the collection from your computer in the comfort of your home. This tool, that lets you view the collection online and borrow books and access databases and all sorts of resources from your pajamas, my job is to make sure that keeps running the way we need it to so you have the access you want.
My response aims to give a physical picture about a technical thing. There is so much we do as systems librarians that if I were to get in-deep with what I do, we’d be there for a while. Between you and I, I don’t care to talk *that* much, but maybe I should.

There’s a lot more to being a Systems Librarian, much of which is unspoken and you don’t know about it until you’re in the throws of being a systems librarian. There was a Twitter conversation prompted when a Twitter’er asked for recommendations on things to teach or include in on the job training for someone who is interested in library systems. It got me thinking, because I knew little to nothing about being a Systems Librarian and just happened upon it (Systems Librarianship) because the job description sounded really interesting and I was already a little bit qualified. It also allowed me to build a skill set that provided me a gateway out of libraries if and when the time arrived. Looking back, I wonder what would I have wanted to know before going into Systems, and most importantly, would it have changed my decision to do so, or rather, to stay? So what is it to be a Systems Librarian?

The unique breed: A Systems Librarian:

  • makes sure users can virtually access a comprehensive list of the library’s collection
  • makes sure library staff can continue to maintain that ever-growing collection
  • makes sure that when things in the library system break, everything possible is done to repair it
  • needs to be able to accurately assess the problem presented by the frantic library staff member that cannot log into their ILS account
  • needs to be approachable while still being the person that may often say no
  • is an imperfect person that maintains an imperfect system so that multiple departments doing multiple tasks can do their daily work.
  • must combine the principles of librarianship with the abilities of computing technology
  • must be able to communicate the concerns and needs of the library to IT and communicate the concerns and needs of IT to the library

Things I would have wanted to know about Systems Librarianship: When you’re interested but naive about what it takes.

  • You need to be able to see the big and small pictures at once and how every piece fits into the puzzle
  • Systems Librarianship requires you to communicate, often and on difficult to explain topics. Take time to master this. You will be doing a lot of it and you want everyone involved to understand, because all parties will most likely be affected by the decision.
  • You don’t actually get to sit behind a computer all day every day just doing your thing.
  • You are the person to bridge the gap between IT and librarians. Take the time to understand the inner workings of both groups, especially as they relate to the library.
  • You’ll be expected to communicate between IT staff and Library staff why their request, no matter the intention, will or will not work AND if it will work, but would make things worse – why.
  • You will have a new problem to tackle almost every day. This is what makes the job so great
  • You need to understand the tasks of every department in the library. Take the time to get to know the staff of those departments as well – it will give insight to how people work.
  • You need to be able to say no to a request that should not or cannot be done, yes even to administration.
  • No one really knows all you do, so it’s important to take the time to explain your process when the time calls for it.
  • You’ll most likely inherit a system setup that is confusing at best. It’s your job to keep it going, make it better even.
  • You’ll be expected to make the “magic” happen, so you’ll need to be able to explain why things take time and don’t appear like a rabbit out of a hat.
  • You’ll benefit greatly from being open about how the system works and how one department’s requests can dramatically, or not so dramatically, affect another part of the system.
  • Be honest when you give timelines. If you think the job will take 2 weeks, give yourself 3.
  • You will spend a lot of time working with vendors. Don’t take their word for  “it,” whatever “it” happens to be.
  • This is important– you’re not alone. Ask questions on the email lists, chat groups, Twitter, etc..
  • You will be tempted to work on that problem after work, schedule time after work to work on it but do not let it take over your life, make sure you find your home/work life balance.

Being a systems librarian is hard work. It’s not always an appreciated job but it’s necessary and in the end, knowing everything I do,  I’d choose it again. Being a tech librarian is awesome and you don’t have to know everything about books to be good at it. I finally accepted this after months of ridicule from my trivia team for “failing” at librarianship because I didn’t know the answer to that obscure book reference from an author 65 years ago.

Also, those lists are not, by any means, complete — I’m curious, what would you add?

Possibly of interest, a bit dated (2011) but a comprehensive list of posts on systems librarianship:

Google Cardboard

IMG_20160223_164012Google Cardboard is getting a lot of press these days. It’s infiltrated fashion shows and classrooms and it’s coming for your Coke can. More importantly, it’s the next big thing for libraries. If you’re new to Cardboard, it’s essentially housing made of cardboard that turns your phone into a virtual reality (VR) viewer. The idea is simple, but the experience is nothing short of magical. I’ve been experimenting with my viewer for almost a year and the novelty still hasn’t worn off. Similar products include Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR, but they come with a hefty price tag. A Cardboard viewer, on the other hand, will run you about $10 or less; Google even provides the blueprints if you want to create your own from scratch. The low cost, minimal learning curve, and interactivity of Cardboard make it the perfect tool to engage your library patrons.

Here are five ways to start using Cardboard in your library:

1. Get crafty.
Before the VR experience begins, you’ve got a real DIY opportunity on your hands. Bust out the hot glue gun and invite your patrons to decorate your viewers, or better yet, liven up your next staff meeting with a craft session.


2. Create a virtual tour of your library system.
At Indiana University we have over 19 branch libraries and I’ve yet to hoof it to each one. We’re currently creating a tour of these libraries using Google’s photo spheres. We hope that the novelty of a VR tour will entice students to participate and the experience will expand their knowledge of the Libraries’ massive collections and resources.

Wells Library

3. Organize a field trip.
Google is now piloting their Expeditions Pioneer Program that creates virtual field trips for schools. The program is invitation only, but it’s easy to create your own program using Google Street View. Why not enhance your school visits with a trip around the world? How about an armchair travel program for adults?

4. Expand your 3D printing services.
You might not have the resources to reprint every design that comes through your library, but why not preserve it on the web? With Sketchfab you can view 3D objects directly in your web browser. Ask your patrons if you can upload their designs to Sketchfab and create a collection for your library. Place a Cardboard viewer next to your 3D printer to showcase their designs.

5. Host a VR Game Night.
I’ll admit that the number of decent Cardboard apps is limited, especially when it comes to games. That said, I’ve had good luck with Lamper VR Firefly Rescue, Titans of Space, and DinoTrek. These apps are all free from the Play Store and easy to play, but be warned, if you get motion sickness these apps will probably do a number on you.


10 iPhone Tricks Every Librarian Should Know

We as librarians deal with questions every day. These days, questions tend to be about devices. We can’t be expected to know everything about every device, but it’s always good to have a few tools ready at our disposal. Here are some handy tricks to keep at the ready if anyone comes at you with an iPhone and demands service.

  • Use your headphones as a camera shutter – It’s not a selfie stick (thank god) but it’s one way to trigger a remote shutter on your camera. Simply plug in the earbuds that came with your iPhone and use the volume buttons to snap away.
two hands holding an iPhone demonstrating how to turn the phone off
How to turn off an iPhone may be the simplest question you get. (Courtesy Apple)
    • Check which apps use the most battery – Some apps eat battery like it’s candy. Go into  Settings >General > Battery > Battery Usage and find out which ones do the most damage so you can turn them off.
  • …and take up the most space – If space is at a premium, go into settings > general > storage and icloud usage > manage storage. Tap the app to delete it if it’s taking up too much space and you don’t use it.
  • Use Search to find apps and stuff faster – I’m surprised how often people (myself included) don’t use this feature: swipe left from your home screen to pull up a search box. Then type in the app (or contact or music file or book or…) you’re looking for.
  • Bundle apps in folders – And once you find that app, group it with others that have a similar purpose by pressing on the app icon until it vibrates and dragging it toward another app. iOS will give the group a name (“Productivity” or “Entertainment”) but you can always change it.
  • Hard vs soft resets – It is so important to learn the differences between these two. Doing a soft reset is where you press an iPhone’s power and home buttons at the same time until the screen goes blank. A hard reset is a full factory reset, which wipes everything off your phone. A soft reset will fix 90% of most problems. If you have to do a hard reset, make sure you backup the device on a computer first.
  • Clear browser history, cookies in Safari – You know how you can clear your browser history and your cookies on your computer, and it can improve your web browsing? You can do the same thing with an iPhone. Go into Settings > Safari and click on “Clear History and Cookies”.
    • Find a lost phone’s owner – Show of hands: how many times have you found a lost iPhone by a computer? If it has Siri, you can simply ask “Whose phone is this?” and she will tell you.
    • Recover recently deleted photos (If you deleted a photo that you want to get back, open up your photos app, click on “All Photos” and then go to “Albums.” You will notice that there is an album called “Recently Deleted.” Within that album is all of the photos that you have deleted within the last 30 days.)
  • Search in the “settings” menu – Forget how to change a wallpaper? Or maybe want to reset screen timeout? Type what you’re looking for in the search in settings to find what you need.

Do you have any other iPhone tools librarians need to know? Add them in the comments!

(Sources: 1, 2, 3, picture)

Jobs in Information Technology: February 17, 2016

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week:

Library Systems and Services, Educational Services Librarian, Redding, CA

Harford County Public Library, Vacancy #16-21, Specialist IV – ILS, Belcamp, MD

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a job posting.

Level Up – Gamification for Promotion in the Academic Library

Kirby courtesy of Torzk
Kirby courtesy of Torzk

Let me tell you the truth- I didn’t begin to play games until my late twenties. In my youth, I resisted the siren call of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. As an adult, I studiously avoided Playstation and XBox. When the Wii came out, I caved. I am very glad I did, because finding games in my twenties proved to be a tremendous stress reducer, community builder, and creative outlet. I cannot imagine completing my MLIS while working full-time and planning my wedding without Super Smash Bros.

It was a time in my life when I really needed to punch something.

In case you are wondering, I specialize as Kirby and I am a crusher. Beyond video games, I like board games (mainly cooperative ones, like Pandemic) and trivia. Lately, I have also been toying with getting into Dungeons & Dragons because what I really need is more hobbies.

More to the point – This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about the value of gamification or my interest in it on the LITA Blog, but this is a first for me in that I am offering gamification as a tool towards a specific professional goal, namely promotion in the academic library.

A quick note- gamification doesn’t necessarily require technology, though I do recommend apps for this process. In writing this blog post, my key aim is to offer academic librarians looking for a natural starting place to apply gamification in their professional lives a recommended way to do so.

SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal

In the course of pursuing promotion in an academic library or seeking professional development opportunities in the workplace, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, isolated, and even paralyzed. What if, instead of binging on Girl Scout cookies and listening to sad Radiohead (this may just be me), we chose to work gamefully? What if we framed promotion as a mission for an epic win, with quests, battles, and rewards along the way?

In her book, SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and more Resilient — Powered by the Science of Games (phew), Jane McGonigal boldly posits, “Work ethic is not a moral virtue that can be cultivated simply by wanting to be a better person. It’s actually a biochemical condition that can be fostered, purposefully, through activity that increases dopamine levels in the brain.”

She goes on to provide seven rules for implementing her SuperBetter method which are:

  • Challenge yourself.
  • Collect and activate power-ups.
  • Find and battle bad guys.
  • Seek out and complete quests.
  • Recruit allies.
  • Adopt a secret identity.
  • Go for the epic win.

Gamification is still something most of us are figuring out how to incorporate into library programming and services; however, I can think of no better way to begin to understand gamification as a learning theory than to apply it towards your work. Seeing how gamification can help you structure the steps it takes to be promoted in your library will offer inspiration. In the process, you will naturally think of ways to apply gamification to instruction, collection engagement, and other library outreach.

Think of the promotion process through the lens of SuperBetter’s rules. Quests might include identifying and contacting collaborators (allies) for your research project or a coach/mentor for your promotion process. You might make a spreadsheet of conferences you want to present at in the next two or three years. Is there a particularly impressive journal where you would like to publish? That’s a fine quest.

Make sure that as you complete these quests, all part of your effort for the eventual “epic win,” you track your efforts. The road to promotion is one that requires a well-rounded portfolio of activities, and gamifying each will keep you on track. Remember that each quest you complete provides you with a power-up, leaving you with more professional clout and experience, extending your network and leaving you SuperBetter. The quest is its own reward.

Habit RPG
Habit RPG – I am a Level 10 Mage with a Panda Companion!

One tool I have found tremendously helpful for framing my own quests towards my promotion is Habit RPG, an app I have mentioned in previous posts. With Habit RPG, I can put all my quests and daily tasks in an already gamified context where I earn fancy armor and other gear for my avatar. SuperBetter has an app component which also looks great. Whether or not you are interested in investigating an app, I would encourage you to read SuperBetter, which is an excellent starting place for thinking about gamification and provides plenty of example and starter quests. Not a reader? No problem. Jane McGonigal has a Ted Talk which sums up the ideas very neatly.

Ultimately, the road to tenure can feel lonely. The solo nature of the pursuit means that no one’s experience is exactly the same. However, by approaching the process through gamification, you can put the joy back into the job. Get questing, and let me know your thoughts on gamifying promotion.

No Time, No Money, No Problem! Getting Your Research Data Services Program Off The Ground

If you’re like most of us, you’ve been watching the proliferation of data or research data services spread like weeds at institutions big and small and in staggering permutations. To begin with, let’s establish a working definition (or at least MY working definition) of data services. To me, they comprise a wide swath of programming and infrastructure related to all things data: management, storage, curation, discoverability, use, visualization, and access with a dash of impact and a pinch of attribution. And by data I mean anything that is textual, numeric, visual…you get the point.

This is a good thing-so many models to choose from! Now your library wants to start a program-this is a bad thing! If you’re also like most of us, you really don’t have the luxury of hiring more people or adding yet another duty under the “Other duties as assigned” category of your job description. But your mission is clear, and you have to “make it work” in the immortal words of Tim Gunn.

Here are a few lessons I learned as the Oklahoma State University Library (OSU) began to explore these issues.

Continue reading No Time, No Money, No Problem! Getting Your Research Data Services Program Off The Ground

Things to Tell My Newbie Self

I’m a noob. by simplebitsdan, on Flickr


Depending on the day of the week, I don’t really know what I am. Am I a librarian, who has a strong interest in tech? Or am I a techie who happens to work in the Library field? What I have come to realize is that it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is that I am, I enjoy it, so I should focus on that.

Now, it took me about 5 years to come to that realization. But when I did, I immediately thought “I wish I could go back in time and tell myself about this!”

This got me to thinking: “What other things would I want to tell myself throughout my early career in libraries and library technology?” Shortly after asking myself this, an old friend of mine, who is a budding future librarian, asked me something along similar lines. So, here it is: the top 4 things that I would tell my younger self given the opportunity.

  1. The vast majority of your job will not be anything you learned in grad school (and that’s okay!)
    I remember my first quarter at UCLA, walking into the largest lecture hall I’d ever been in (it wasn’t really that big, I had just gone to a small college for my undergraduate studies) and being shocked with how “high level” the lectures were, wrestling with such existential questions as “What is documentation?” (it’s antelopes, by the way). I instantly thought back to all of the librarians I had come to know throughout my life and was suddenly much, much more impressed with them, assuming that all of these philosophical thoughts about information and documentation were constantly swirling around their heads too.

    Flash forward to today, and students at my university were seeing “reached maximum virtual host limit” as they tried to access the library databases. “Thanks a lot, SAGE,” I muttered to myself while bumping up the MaxVirtualHost limit yet again. “The things they don’t tell you about in school,” I thought to myself.

    I know, I know. It’s a pretty common refrain among practicing librarians that most of what they do on a day-to-day basis is informed more so by experience than by education. I certainly don’t see this as a problem though. It’s never a bad thing to know more about something than less. Sure, you may never catalog a single item in your life post-grad school, but because you took that course you probably have a ton of respect for people who live for cataloging. And who knows, the little bit of knowledge you happened to have held on to may prove useful to you or someone else coming up through the ranks.

  2. Keep in touch with your classmates — then keep building your network
    This is one I certainly could have done a better job on. I got to know some of my classmates during my degree program, but I was commuting from about 80 miles away, so I missed out on a lot of social gatherings. That being said, I owe an incredible amount of gratitude to those I did manage to keep up with, as they have proven to be constant sources of support, advice, and (perhaps most importantly) job leads.

    Building your network may require you to take a closer look at social media if that’s something you’ve been avoiding. You don’t have to let it take over your life, by any means, but I would recommend at least having a LinkedIn account (especially if you’re on the job hunt). If you’re in a tech role, roll the die with Twitter for a little while. I never really “got” Twitter at first, but the way in which the tech industry seems to have pretty much adopted it as a primary means to share knowledge has totally changed the way I look at it. There’s another hugely important way to build your network as well:

  3. Go to conferences (and do not skip the dine-arounds)
    I couldn’t decide whether or not to include this one, simply because many people don’t have much of a choice as to whether they can attend conferences or not ($). I would recommend to do whatever it takes to get to one — and try to find one that’s more along the lines of the area of librarianship you’re interested in. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve enjoyed the ALA Annual Conferences I’ve attended, and while they are certainly high on the “amount of free books” scale, the programs tend to be directed toward a broader audience than I would prefer. So, if you can only make it to one, get the biggest bang for your buck! If you’re interested in library technology, you have quite a few options (ER&L, Code4Lib, Internet Librarian, Computers in Libraries, and of course LITA Forum, among others).

    Also, go to the dine-arounds. I’m totally guilty of ignoring those for my first three years of conference going. The thought of meeting up with people I didn’t know, to go to a restaurant I’d never heard of, to talk about who-knows-what and then awkwardly split a bill pretty much sounded like my nightmare. What you’ll find out, though, is that even though you don’t know the people you’re dining with, you know them. They are you. You are them. It’s almost magical. You will have found “your people”. Go!

  4. Impostor syndrome is real and everyone has it (so stop worrying)
    Impostor syndrome, for those who may not be familiar with the term, basically means you’re constantly afraid of being found out as a fraud. David Walsh wrote a blog post that looks at this from a coder’s perspective and it pretty much hits the nail on the head for me. Having self-taught myself almost all of my tech skills, I always felt like my skills weren’t real. Real developers don’t have to Google things. Real programmers are fluent in JavaScript, C#, Ruby, and Python. For me, this stretched into librarianship as well. Real librarians publish in peer-reviewed journals and speak at conferences. Real librarians are featured in American Libraries and appear on trading cards. All of these were ideas I put into my own head.

    I was talking to a software developer friend of mine recently, and he was asking me what I was interested in learning over the next year. I told him I wanted to get better at JavaScript, learn Node.js, get comfortable with MVC frameworks, learn Ruby (on Rails), start using GitHub, get better at responsive web design, and, if I have time, learn about ASP.NET Single Page Applications and AngularJS. He said I was crazy. It still exists in my head, though: “if I want to be a real “whatever the heck I am”, I should know these things”. Obviously, this isn’t true. Ambition is a good thing, but left unchecked it can wreak havoc on your psyche. Just remember, no matter what, you are real. True, you may never know everything about everything, but neither will anyone else. Enjoy your own journey, and remember to have fun.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’d love to hear what other bits of advice other practicing librarians have for their younger selves!

Quid Pro Quo: Librarians and Vendors

I joked with a colleague recently that I need to get over my issue with vendors giving me sales pitches during phone calls and meetings. We had a good laugh since a major responsibility of my job as Assistant Director is to meet with vendors and learn about products that will enhance the patron experience at my library. As the point of contact I’m going to be the person the vendor calls and I’m going to be the person to whom the vendor pitches stuff.

The point was that sometimes it would be nice to have a quiet day so you could get back to the other vendors who have contacted you or maybe actually implement some of the tech you acquired from a vendor—he says as he looks wistfully at a pile of equipment in his office that should out in the public’s hands.

Just last month my fellow blogger Bill Dueber talked about the importance of negotiating with vendors in his post “There’s a Reason There’s a Specialized Degree.” Because I work hand in hand with vendors on an almost daily basis there’s a number of things I try to do to hold up my end of the bargain. There’s an article from 2010 on LIS Careers that talks about the Librarian/Vendor relationship. While not everything is relevant, it does have some good information in it (some of which I’ve pulled into this post).

  • Pay bills on time
  • Reply to calls/emails in a timely manner
  • Be clear about timelines
  • Say no if the answer’s no
  • Be congenial

I find it helps if I think of the vendors as my patrons. How would I treat a member of the public? Would I wait weeks before answering a reference question that came in via email? We’re all busy so not responding the same day to a vendor is probably ok but going more than a day or two is not a good idea. If I don’t want the vendor emailing me every other day I need to communicate. And if things are really busy or something’s come up I need to be clear with the vendor that I won’t be able to look at a new product until next week or second quarter, whichever the case may be.

I can’t speak for other libraries, but our board approves bills so we basically do a big swath of payments once a month. The more time it takes me to sign off on a bill and hand it over to finance, the longer it’ll take for that bill to get processed. Trust me, the last thing you want is for your computer reservation license to expire so you end up scrambling fifteen minutes before you open the doors trying to get a new license installed.

If I’m doing my part, then there are some things I expect in return from vendors (this list will look similar):

  • Send bills in a timely manner
  • Don’t send email/call every other day
  • Take no for an answer
  • Don’t trash competitors

It’s very frustrating to me when a vendor keeps pushing a product after I’ve said no. I know the vendor’s job is to find customers but sometimes it can be beneficial to lay off the sales pitch and save it for another visit. Only once have I actually had to interrupt a vendor several times during a phone call to tell them that I no longer will be doing business with them and do not want them to call me any more.

It’s one thing to say that your product does something no one else’s does or to claim that your product works better than a competitor. That’s business. But I’ve sat in vendor demos where the person spent so much time trashing another company that I had no idea what their product did. Also, sometimes I use similar products from different companies because they’re different and I can reach more patrons with a wider variety of services. This is particularly true with technology. We provide desktops, laptops, and WiFi for our customers because different people like to use different types of computers. It’s not always economically feasible to provide such a variety for every service, but we try to do it when we can.

I also have a number of things I’ll put on a wish list for vendors.

  • Look over meeting agendas and minutes
  • Check our website for services we’re offering
  • Provide a demo that you can leave behind
  • Try to not show up unannounced; at least call first

It shocks me when vendors ask what our budget is on a project, especially something for which we’ve done an RFP. This might pertain more to public libraries, but everything we do is public record. You can find the budget meetings on the city website and see exactly how much was approved. That attention to detail goes a long way towards showing me how you’ll handle our relationship.

Maybe we use iPads in our programming. Maybe we just replaced our selfchecks. Perhaps we already have a 3D printer. Maybe the head of our children’s department took part in an iLead program with the focus on helping parents pick early literacy apps for their children. Our website is, for all intents and purposes, an ever-changing document. As such, we make every effort to keep our services up to date and tout what our staff is doing. This can help you frame your sales pitch to us. You might not want to downplay iPads when we’ve been having success with them.

Where technology’s concerned, being able to leave a demo device with me is huge. It’s not always possible, but any amount of time I get where I can see how it would fit into our workflow helps us say yes or no. Sometimes I have a question that only comes up because I’ve spent some time using a device.

If you’re seeing a customer in Milwaukee, my library is not that far away and it makes sense that you can drop in and see how things are going. Totally fine. If you can, call first. The number of times I’ve missed a vendor because I didn’t know they were coming are more numerous than I’d like. But I can’t be available if I don’t know I should.

I get it. Companies are getting bigger through acquisitions, people’s sales areas are changing, the volume of customers goes up and up, and there’s still the same number of hours in the day. But there are vendors who do the things I mention above, and they’ll get my attention first.

What are some of the things you would like to see vendors do?