Put it on the record: My responses to Sage’s responses

First, a point of correction and clarity: It appears that the conflict between our middlemen and SAGE can be attributed to simple muddy communication; SAGE doesn’t care where I buy my stuff or how I buy it. I can switch from WALDO to Lyrasis at any time. (Worth noting, though, is that SAGE offers the two the same terms, so it won’t actually get me anything to move between them. Thus it is technically true that they won’t let me move to get better pricing, because they don’t offer better pricing. But they are not trying to control my behavior re: purchasing through middlemen or consortia.)

Second: Let’s talk about the public offer I got during the on-stage Q & A portion of my Charleston speech, to share coffee with SAGE’s VP for Sales.

I deflected while I was on stage, saying something about how it’d been a particularly busy week for me and thus my lack of reply to the offers that came in email to meet in Charleston. That was true, as far as I went. There’s more, though.

Here’s what I replied via email when I had time to think about being articulate:

I wasn’t going engage in this debate from the stage at Charleston, as I was paid to be there and to do a particular job, which wasn’t to resolve my own vendor conflicts during the opening plenary. However, I do appreciate your willingness to come forward publicly. I also know that you did yourself a favor in doing so, since you now look better in the eyes of the crowd than you otherwise would. And I thank you for proving my point: when one speaks publicly, one can in fact enable change in our vendor/library partnerships.

All of that said, I am flying home today and did not make a coffee date with you, nor return your phone call. That’s very intentional. I want all of this in writing. I understand (truly!) that tone and intent can be lost in writing, but I believe that the written record is the only reliable record. I’d rather conduct these conversations by email. And, in equal seriousness: If you can’t explain your pricing structure clearly in writing, then you have a bigger problem than whether or not I blog about you in a negative light. There is no reason why a phone call should be required to explain how you price and sell your product.

[reiteration of the details of our local concern and repeated request for clarity on pricing models.]

That was on November 8, at 8:30 am. I’ve not heard back yet, though it’s only been 2 business days and there was a sizeable SAGE contingent obviously quite busy at Charleston. I’m not judging terribly harshly (yet); I know what my re-entry from travel looks like, and have sympathy.

I share this to model one way that we, as librarians, can choose to communicate with vendor partners. You don’t have to take my tone, or my stand. You don’t have to agree with me or with my issues and approach. But I beg of you: get it in writing. I don’t want to spend my institution’s money with any partner who won’t commit to their terms in writing, and I’m not sure why you would want to, either.

After Charleston, I had a Twitter conversation in which a librarian indicated disappointment that I didn’t meet the SAGE reps for coffee, since I was thus shutting down communication. I think that I’m doing the opposite; I’m encouraging and demanding communication that’s repeatable, shareable, and good for our community, not just good for Potsdam and Jenica. The same person asked how I would get it on the record, then, and proposed a conference panel to discuss issues between vendors and librarians. I think that if a conference wants to do that, more power to them, but I still don’t believe that (unless it is recorded and widely shared) that’s ‘putting it on the record’; that’s just another conversation that can be retracted, amended, and discredited later.

Want it on the record? Want to stop the silencing and the bullying and the closed-door negotiations and the abusive licensing terms and the confusion, all of which hold us back rather than drive us forward? Put it in writing. Then put it on the web where it can be accessed, reused, and learned from.

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