9/24/2011

Looking Forward-eish Part 2 : Who's your 'Daddy'?

So it’s almost that time of the year when the South African Librarians Professional Body meets for its Annual Conference.   Since I’m sure I’m not going to attend, I thought I would excavate and resurrect some issues that had me chomping at the bit at last year’s conference.

To prevent from being a victim of the Managerial Finger Twinge (see previous post for world ending specifics) I will not refer to the specific Local Authorities by their copyrighted trade names but will use the friendly and generally accepted names like Cape, Jo’burg, P.E. and Harold. I will also refer to the specific Universities in these provinces by even friendlier names like That-Steppy-One-Near-The-Mountain-in-the-Cape, or the One-That-Has-Lots-of-White-Waters near it, in Gauteng.
Sadly Harold only has UNISA.

I will endeavor to call public librarians, by their names: Public Librarians, and academic librarians by there’s, which as a matter of interest isn’t P.E.S.T.S but rather Academic Librarians. And any indications that I think Public Librarians are better than Academic Librarians is completely a figment of some of our overpaid imaginations.

So.
Too the issues Library Boy!

The Thin Line between Sponsor and Graft

Organizations like our professional association thrive on sponsorship. The membership fees, which are in a price range of their own (read: high and a post for another time), could buy 1 glorious meal at the One and Only Restaurants for two,  31.25 loaves of bread and 750 Chappie bubblegum, but barely manages to keep the national office from closing each year.  If it wasn't for monies from sponsors and the National Government events like the annual conference could not happen.

But there is a catch that comes with these sizable donations.
I can only speculate what the National Government might ask for in return but corporate sponsors want a show of good faith for their investments.
Usually this good faith has happened already, ie business continues with the recipients of the cash. Where things get fishy is when its the same bunch of sponsors every single year that start doling out the cash. Then the dynamic changes into something of  a twisted relationship dynamic worthy of Doctor Phil.
To whit:
Sponsors (Vendors/Companies/Service Providers/Daddy)  give money to clients(the Customer), and clients feel obligated to put up with the Sponsors deficiencies when rendering their services.

It becomes even more toxic when you're choosing vendors based on the likelihood that they might be better corporate sponsors than a vendor you are currently using.
(It's all just so twisted.)

Then you have a massive events like the upcoming National Conference, which requires a ton of funding, giving the sponsor an in. The Corporate sugar daddy basically gets prime space on the display floor in absence of any competition, show-casing the goods and services that is relevant to its client.
All good and well, except when your client is just a small demographic of a much larger population.
And since, the client needs to keep Daddy happy, Daddy's products and services get pushed to the wider population, who in fact, can't really afford it or the simply don't need it.
Translation:
Yes this is about Academic Libraries shoving Academic Library vendors down the throats of  Public Library attendees, by booking them as speakers, showcasing products and generally not giving a crap about who or what Public Libraries want to see at the National Conference.

Again, its all so tawdry and.....twisted. (Where are you Doctor Phil?)

You could say that the Professional Association needs a more coherent plan for requesting funding, other than asking Daddy for pocket money for sweets all the time. Daddy's wallet is not always going to stay flush with money.

Of course by requesting funding, comes the implication that you can pitch what your Organization can do, or highlight its successes, why it should exist, the happy neighbourhood kids sitting at your free internet access, enjoying your new books and friendly well trained staff (See, Ms Tise. We be having it.) etc.
Despite the impending library extinction on the horizon (see previous post), we can safely show that libraries are an integral part of communities. Sorry, I meant to say Public Libraries can show that they are integral parts of a community's social fabric. 
What do Academic Libraries do again?
Sweety time? And enduring Daddy's ministrations for it?

A lack of a clear funding strategy and a clear marketing tool (an equivalent of Swiss Army knife of marketing) that can be used as a foot in the proverbial door of Corporate Sponsors other than the usual bunch of Daddy's, is an issue that will not be  discussed at the National Conference.
Why?
Because, in this case and according to some librarians, its just easy to take candy from strangers than to ask where its coming from and how much of it is still left.
Or even why you should be taking it in the first place!



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