I read some articles from people discussing virtual reference solutions, and what products are better than others, including what vendors provide better support and sales experiences. In California, we are losing our statewide online reference cooperative, so we’re left scrambling with only a few months to pick new products. The resulting fracas is intriguing — the gloves have come off and the anger people have felt at particular vendors is coming out full force.
Also, Meredith Farkas recently wrote about EBSCO’s role as an evil empire, and lists several major faux pas they’ve made in recent months. Incidentally, Farkas’s boss received a phone call from EBSCO’s VP of Marketing right after her post. Nobody called Farkas, just her boss. That in and of itself is interesting.
My general opinion of EBSCO is not a good one. As I commented on Meredith’s site, I have worked with EBSCO & other database vendors for the last 9 years. EBSCO consistently pulls titles, has ridiculously long embargos (which they also change at will), gives misleading or incorrect information during sales presentations, pressures publishers into exclusive deals (it’s either only us, or we won’t work with you), and repackages and sells the same content in different bundles–double-charging libraries and giving a false impression that the library is getting more content than they are. I was very disappointed when our library switched from Gale to EBSCO this past year and these problems further solidify my position. I would love to think EBSCO could change but the long term pattern of behavior makes me think it’s corporate culture…and that’s hard to change.
However, it’s not just the virtual reference companies or EBSCO, and we all know it.
Why do we in libraries tolerate this kind of arrogant behavior from a vendor? We’re the ones with the money. They should be doing what we want. We need to vote with our wallets and choose to work with vendors who provide the best possible products for the money, are fast to respond to technology trends, do not engage in shady business practices, and treat their customers with respect.
I encourage everyone to make your vendors aware that you are not happy with their behavior (it’s not like they’re going to smack you in the face for saying so). I also encourage everyone to vote with your wallets the next time you get to make a vendor choice — pick the one that does what you want, how you want it, and who has a good reputation with your peers. Don’t automatically go for the lowest price. You’ll pay for it in different ways later, believe you me.
I also encourage everyone to be vocal to your colleagues, online and off, about which vendors you have problems with. I think it’s fairly well-established in libraryland which vendors are on the “dislike” list. And you know what? I’ll cite the vendors on my own list right here. In my work with libraries I personally have had problems with Reed Elsevier, EBSCO, Reference USA, 3M, Innovative Interfaces, and OCLC (sadly). Some combination of poor ethics, price gouging, misleading sales pitches, lying, hoarding, poor product development, horrible customer service, and/or plain bad products has led to these vendors making my list.
When people ask me my opinions about products or companies, I give them freely, good or bad. Then again, I’m known for being rather mouthy and have gotten myself on some social black lists by doing so. I’m at peace with that. It’s who I am. Actually, I find it amusing to hear reports of CEOs, salespeople, or project managers using four-letter words to describe me — all because I gave their product a single bad review on my website. Really? I’d much rather that vendors contacted me to talk about why they got a bad review, instead of throwing stones at someone giving them ideas about improving the product, albeit without the smiles, whipped cream, and cherries that usually accompany focus group discussions that they’re probably more accustomed to.
Many others in the library field are not able or willing to vocalize their negative feelings about vendors, either out of fear or angering the vendor, fear of angering their employer, or perhaps some other reason still invisible to me.
I plead with all of you to speak your minds, to be honest, and to help your fellow libraries by saying the good and the bad both.
And I plead with all library vendors to remember: you get our money because we choose to give it to you. Remember who the customer is in this relationship. Do everything you can to make your customers happy while still meeting your bottom line — for without us, you will be in bankruptcy court before long.