November 17, 2010
The Way I See It
I heard some shocking news about the West Librarian Relations team. Mark Schwartz's position as Director of the team was eliminated and it is my understanding that Mark has been given his walking papers. With Mark goes the heart and soul of West Librarian Relations. Following on the heels of that was news that four West Librarian Relations Managers were also given their walking papers. That leaves five Librarian Relations Managers plus Anne Ellis (Senior Director) and Lori Hedstrom (Marketing Manager).
I have known Mark Schwartz for many years. He is a consummate professional who succeeded in making the customer experience better. I could always count on Mark's assistance when I had a Westlaw problem. Nothing was not within the purview of his job and I know from others that when I called upon him for help he would often go from office to office in Eagan looking for and finding someone to solve the problem. I know Mark is held in very high regard by his Librarian Relations Managers and imagine they are devastated to lose Mark's invaluable guidance. I know I am. Mark, your presence at TR will be sorely missed by me and I suspect many others.
I am concerned about the fate of Librarian Relations at the big vendors. Last year TR cut one third of its team and LexisNexis also made huge cuts. The biggest ambassadors for TR and LexisNexis are its Librarian Relations team. They showcase products to librarians (who play a huge role in deciding whether these products should be purchased). They train librarians on the products, who then train the lawyers. They take feedback from the librarians on these products, which oftentimes results in improvements to the products. They act as troubleshooters when the librarians have a problem, often easily solving a problem that the librarian might have otherwise had to spend hours just finding the right person to go to.
So why is Librarian Relations being cut? I think it is economics. I think it's the fact that Librarian Relations team members don't directly make sales to the customers. But the truth of the matter is that they are making sales to the customers. You may not be able to directly point to a sale, but believe me, its Librarian Relations who makes me interested in a product and comfortable with a product. And it's the personal touch that does that. The visit, the phone call, the librarian showcases where we get to see the product and hear about it from Librarian Relations, ask questions, and network with other librarians about the product. I am a big believer in technology and the web ex but it is no replacement for the personal touch. So the way I see it is that TR and LexisNexis should invest in expanding Librarian Relations, not contracting it.
Yes, this is an issue of significant concern. However, if we are effective within our firms, WTR is going to find this is an incredibly dumb move. I have never worked in a firm that did not require all library related vendors to deal with teh head librarian and ONLY the head librarian. I firmly believe that is because they realized that a significant part of the value of having an experienced law librarian in the firm is her ability to manage those relationships and contracts to the benefit of the firm.
Posted by: Lynn Merring | Nov 19, 2010 10:09:23 AM
Like Cassandra, I have been saying for years that WTR really doesn't care about the librarians as a market sector. Their cash cows are the law firms, etc. and they are really not unhappy to bypass the librarian's filter. I expressed this same viewpoint to SALLD about two years ago and while some members were shocked, others agreed with me. Hard to hear...but law librarians are really not very important to this vendor any more.
Posted by: Mary Ann Archer | Nov 18, 2010 6:14:53 AM
N.B: comments are mine and do not necessarily represent those of my employer
I am shocked by this news. I think Mark was one of the first representatives I met as I began my career as a Law Librarian. He made training on Westlaw amusing and a true learning experience. He was eminently approachable any time one needed.
I don't know what Thomson Reuters West folks are thinking (perhaps they aren't) but if they THINK that WLN is all that and a bag of chips that will sell itself without the heralding of the Librarian Relations Team...they are absolutely wrong.
Posted by: Marguerita Young-Jones | Nov 17, 2010 11:36:38 AM
I think the bigger question is what Thomson Reuters and to a lesser extent LexisNexis thinks about the librarian community. The firing of the Librarian Relations Reps. indicates that the companies feel that contacting librarians to purchase their products or maintaining a robust librarian relationship is no longer of value to them. We are seeing this in Thomson Reuters sales strategies for Westlaw Next. They are bypassing the librarians and going directly to the CEOs and COOs. The best way to counteract this strategy is to have our executives push back and have the companies contact us as their experts in negotiating contracts. If you don't have this relationship with your COOs and Managing Partners, you need to start creating that relationship now or find your self looking in from the outside instead of being a vital part of management. It took us years to earn the respect of our management teams. But we seem to be sliding back to where we were pre-1990s. We have been steadily losing ground. We lost ground in the 1990s when firms started putting IT Directors in charge of the library. We're losing ground in this decade as the Marketing Department is overshadowing us with business research. If we want to go the way of the Librarian Relations Reps. then sit back and do nothing. But if you want to remain a viable member of the management team, you need to get up and remind them of your value.
Posted by: Janice E. Henderson | Nov 17, 2010 9:09:07 AM
Sorry I dont feel comfortable posting on the Internet the names of the other librarian relations personnel who got laid off.
Posted by: Caren Biberman | Nov 17, 2010 8:40:08 AM
I agree, your message is well said and hopefully resonates with the powers that be at multiple vendors. I certainly agree Mark's skills will be hard to replace, if he does leave TR. BTW, please post the names of those who have been axed.
Posted by: Anon | Nov 17, 2010 8:35:12 AM
Well said, Caren! The constant decimation of this vital program is very worrisome. The Librarian Relations team represents the very best of West's relationship with a very important set of its stakeholders - the law librarians. The LRMs have our best interests at heart and are our voice within the Thomson Reuters behemoth. When we lose our LRMs, our voice is diminished. I hope others will also speak out!
Posted by: John | Nov 17, 2010 7:15:52 AM