Sales People and Sadness

I no longer see book salespeople at the library.  It's not because I'm mean, icky or horrid.  I am just done.

In the halcyon days of my youth (well, young professional career, in any case), things were different. We did most work by hand: writing out overdues, book orders, hand cataloging, etc. We did have a  slick little Gaylord check-out machine - we inserted the book card and it took a "bite" out of the card and stamped a date automatically (aaaah, technology). There was no online world and connectivity that showed us bookcovers or instant reviews if the journals hadn't routed to us yet.

When salespeople came, they brought actual books that we could look through and decide on...and not have to write order cards for. Time saving! The best ones brought news of colleagues and libraries from their routes. Good gossip!

But things have changed for us. Over the long years of my career I discovered a couple of things:
  • we often over-purchased or brought more unneeded material when we were face-to-face chatting with a person than facing a silent page of book reviews.
  • we found less need for prebound materials which were a big item in the catalog of salespeople. Prebound chapter books had bindings that long outlasted the tissue-thin, acidy paper; picture books with popular characters long outlasted the popularity - paperbacks lasted as long as the trend and we could buy 2-3 for the same price.
  • there was a plethora of unreviewed and poorly reviewed material and remainders that turned out to be shelf-sitters with our families.
  • with our ordering on-line, automated payments and invoicing, access to good discounts through jobbers, ability to "see" materials virtually and read reviews online and overall automation, buying from salespeople created way more staff work than we could justify.
Today a salesperson cold-called...actually stopped in personally, only to hear that we were really truly done.  It was a difficult conversation for us both and he mentioned that this is hard on salespeople.

I know. I wish it were different. To me, it mirrors the struggles of where print books and econtent are going.  One is phasing out while the other is in ascendence. It makes me sad. But it is library life.

Image: 'Ojos Grandeshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/62237714@N00/277389539


  1. I am going to frame this on my wall! I have some salespeople that I've bought some stuff from in the past - it helps me to see Spanish titles before I buy them - but many more that I've had awful experiences with. A lot of them try to pressure with the "X library ordered from us!". Now I will tell them - "Marge doesn't buy from you and Marge is awesome, therefore I will not buy from you". Simple logic.

    1. That is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Whenever folks would say that it never moved me - that other library has their own concerns and needs that might not match mine. Sometimes salespeople have carried stuff we can't get anywhere else easily (very easy phonics published in other countries; unreviewed teacher materials that work swell; etc). I don't mind meeting for that kind of stuff. But really the final straw for me is how time consuming it is to order/receive/process the stuff for staff. It makes it very expensive. I feel badly for salesfolks, some of whom I am very fond of and grateful to. But I just can't get the math to work.

  2. Me, too. I'm done with salespeople. I completely agree with you about the popular character titles, which seems to be a lot of what they try to push on us. I just placed my first online order with Capstone last week and it was so freeing!

  3. I have two book salespeople that I still deal with in person. Mainly because they keep up with what I have purchased before, price ranges, and actually listen to my needs. One only comes once a year, the other twice a year--both at my convenience. But then there's another one that just wears me out and hasn't accepted no for an answer, yet!!!!!

  4. I have just started as a librarian in a small town public library (been here for about 8 months) and the previous librarian used one sales company quite a bit. They would send preview boxes, she kept ones she wanted and sent the rest back. I don't want to purchase anymore from this company, but even after numerous turn downs the salesperson still continues to call. I have told her that our library board is choosing to downsize the number of companies that we order from and that our budget is low, but I don't know what else to tell her to let her know that I don't want her to call anymore! I haven't been able to bring myself to just say "Please don't call anymore". Any tips?

  5. Oh man, I've HATED preview boxes and refused to deal with them since the first one I received! Such a pain to unpack, mostly filled with useless books and its just easier to buy the whole darn thing than re-pack and hassle with re-sending. What a huge waste of your time. And it is truly the lazy librarian's way to get a collection together. Somebody who doesn't know your community or patrons picks books for you. No way.

    Stick to your guns. Be friendly but firm: "I'm sorry, I no longer accept calls from salespeople. You may send catalogs to our library address but we simply don't do business over the phone." Then just keep repeating that broken record when you are called. This kind of hounding by salespeople works beautifully on so many librarians who find it hard to say no. When you are firm, they stop (they don't like it, but they leave you alone). Best of luck.

  6. OMG, this was common practice at the first library I worked at and boy did my rookie self get taken. What could I do, the director liked the free lunches! Given a choice I will never order books this way again.

  7. I am so jealous. We have one sales person who we've never let meet with us (she has cold called in person before but it was my day off) and she just hounds me. I am thinking of calling the publishers to complain. Over my dead body is she getting one cent from us.

  8. I think Anonymous and I worked at the same library. Some of the salespeople were good guys, but that was not the way to build a collection. Maybe the most important lesson I learned.

  9. I had one call last week who wanted to read me her list of new titles and tell me about each one over the phone. I'm still boggled at the thought!

  10. If you are a salesperson please read this: please stop calling the circulation and information desks trying to talk to me in person. You have my office number. It infuriates me companies think it is ok for me to buy books and chat with you while I am trying to be available for my patrons. Also do not drop in! Make an appointment! I am short staffed and have no time between programs, managing staff, and daily duties of being an administrator and librarian. One had the nerve to "drop in" while I was pumping in my office. I told a staff member to tell him, not right now please just call to make an appoitment. He kept trying to come in and saying through the door "i'll wait" really!?