Librarian-vendor relationships are a crucial part of any library’s operations, but often are seen as annoying or even adversarial. We need our vendors and their products or services and we know that they need us, but sometimes it seems as if our goals don’t align with their business requirements. My experience with vendors has been quite varied, but recently I began seeing these relationships in a new way—as partnerships.
I’m a solo librarian and recently worked with one of our vendor representatives to provide a demo of a library resource to our staff. A lot of logistics were involved—coordinating with the appropriate staff, promoting the event, ordering lunch, and getting the conference room ready, all of which were my responsibility, and the rep did the hard part—showing our staff how this library resource could make their work easier. But we made it happen together. After the first demo the rep told me, “We make a good team.” I thought about what she said and realized she was right. When it came time for the next “event” my approach was more “how can I help our vendor” instead of looking at it like she was here to help me, the library, and our staff. The rep I was working with is very supportive—just a pleasure to work with—so we try to help each other, which ends up benefiting us both.
After I started thinking about the librarian-vendor relationship, I wondered about other ways I could partner with my vendors on projects that would be mutually advantageous. This point was critical—I want to make sure that our relationship is benefiting both my library and our vendor. The AALL Spectrum article, Happy Together: How to foster mutually-beneficial librarian-vendor partnerships includes many helpful suggestions that will ensure your library-vendor relationships are positive and can evolve into real partnerships.
If you’re interested in other ways libraries and vendors can partner together on specific projects, read how four libraries managed to get recognized by ALA in 2014 for their cutting-edge services in this ALAnews Press Release. While your ambitions might not be as grand, these ideas may spark your imagination for a project at your library.