Respecting your customers

I made clear my institution’s stance on the American Chemical Society, and our reasons for it, in this post. I was as fair as I could be, I gave credit where they deserved it, and I discussed how the facts of the matter impacted our campus. I then wrote a follow-up about how comparatively even-handed the internet response has been, and how impressed I was by it.

When Jennifer Howard of the Chronicle of Higher Education asked for a comment from the ACS on the matter, they said this:

“We find little constructive dialogue can be had on blogs and other listservs where logic, balance and common courtesy are not practiced and observed,” Glenn S. Ruskin, the group’s director of public affairs, said in an e-mail message. “As a matter of practice, ACS finds that direct engagement via telephone or face-to-face with individuals expressing concern over pricing or other related matters is the most productive means to finding common ground and resolution.”

Well. I’ve spoken on behalf of my institution. Now let me speak on behalf of myself. Aside from the personal insult of being accused of a lack of logic, balance, or common courtesy, I guess that statement makes clear how they feel about interacting with librarians in our professional discussion spaces. As a matter of practice, the ACS feels that interacting with customers in their spaces is unproductive. I’m accustomed to old guard folks thinking that blogs are a cesspit of youthful indiscretion, but seriously… listservs? Email discussions have been a mainstay of librarians’ and academics’ professional networking and discourse for decades, and apparently, they too lack courtesy, logic, and balance. Sometimes they do, of course — everyone’s seen the spectacular disasters that sometimes occur — but these conversation and information sharing spaces are a staple of our professional discourse, and the ACS has chosen to write them off entirely as unworthy of participation.

To quote a friend, it’s often hard to have meaningful discussion when you refuse to engage in the discussion in the first place. Which perhaps explains why the ACS is so out of touch with what their customers think of them.


  1. And I suppose he did not see the irony of “said in an e-mail message” when he did not reply with telephone or face-to-face.

    I am ever hopeful that your institution (well, and you personally) has provided a strong lead which other academic libraries will follow.

    Oh, and I wonder what he thinks about blogs like the one from, oh say, the Institute of Museum and Library Services? That would be the federal agency which administers funding and statistic gathering for the public and state library community?


  2. Well, and what he’s really saying, as you know, is that they prefer that the conversation happen where it cannot be seen, heard, or recorded by others. In other words, they want to control the message and rob their counterpart in those discussions of their voice (while happily using their prominent position to say whatever they want to the world). A bit out of step with the times, perhaps. Customers of any product, however esoteric, have a right to express their opinions of the product in any format.


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