So I’m cruising through my reader tonight when I stumble upon Chris Harris’ blog post/letter to a Follett executive. Horrors! Now I must defend my position in my school to a vendor? Um Follett, I am not sure you would be such a lofty company without mine and many other school librarians’ support. Dare I suggest you need to return the favor.
Here is Chris’s post/letter copied with permission:
Thomas Schenck, President
Follett Software Company
1391 Corporate Drive
McHenry IL 60050-7041
Dear Mr. Schenck;
Congratulations on the launch of your new Cognite software. Taking a major project like this from concept to an actual, usable product is always an exciting challenge. Your team has done an excellent job working with librarians to define needs and provide real world tools that support our library mission. I am concerned, however, that our mission and your mission seemed to have drifted apart during the marketing at product launch. The mission you are communicating is that Cognite is a powerful new tool that eradicates the need for librarians.
We all understand that the elimination of librarians is not actually the intended purpose of Cognite. It’s just that somewhere between your building this tool with the support of librarians and your launching it, some marketer seems to have removed us from the equation. In fact, the Cognite website explicitly suggests that this new software replaces the functions of a flesh-and-blood librarian and can serve as the sole intermediary between students, teachers and parents and the resources housed in a school library. Your fancy graphic makes it clear that Cognite is your recommended answer for information access, not a certified school librarian.
If it were just a case of an overzealous graphic artist forgetting to properly display the role the the school librarian still plays in supporting access to information resources while using Cognite as a tool, then this would be less of an issue. But instead, it seems that the entire marketing plan for Cognite is built around selling the software to administrators and teachers as a replacement, not a supplement, for a school librarian. If this isn’t the case, then you really need to talk to your copy writers about their failure to include the word “librarian” even a single time on the entire Cognite website.
Follett has been a strong supporter of libraries and librarians for many years. From great book services, to more recent expansions into digital resources and strong software tools for libraries, Follett has always been there. We especially appreciate your willingness to be there as conference sponsors as well. So maybe that is why this latest move comes as such a shock. As was pointed out in your Twitter response to my initial question: “Libraries inspired Cognite! It brings library info into the classroom or anywhere learning takes place, & keeps parents involved.” Maybe 140 characters wasn’t enough to address the real question. Given your long time support of libraries, and given the role libraries and librarians played in the creation of Cognite, why are we so conspicuously absent from the sales literature?
I understand that Cognite isn’t a librarian tool. This is a good thing as we already have too many librarian tools (like the traditional OPAC). Yet in these very trying times, with unfortunate news of library and librarian cuts coming in from around the country, we need your continued support. Now, more than ever, we need Follett Software to showcase the librarian – the person – as the expert who can support the spread of information and resources using powerful new tools like Cognite.
I ask these questions about the rollout of Cognite not to criticize, but in a plea for continued support in our common work of highlighting the critical importance of librarians as the driving force that make libraries work. Thank you for your time, and I hope that this might convince you to at least consider how the Cognite marketing can be shifted slightly to draw more attention to school librarians.
Christopher Harris, Librarian
I join Chris Harris in this letter campaign. My letter writing list (congress and now to include vendors) is getting longer and longer. Sigh.