My ALCTS Experience: Bob Nardini
Group Director, Client Integration & Head Bibliographer, Coutts Information Services
My first years as a member of what is now the Publisher/Vendor Library Relations Interest Group were a memorable ALCTS experience.
During my first year as chair of the group, ALCTS set out to review the missions of all division groups, including us. That meant reviewing a quasi-judicial mandate still on the books for PVLR to adjudicate disputes and hear grievances among its three constituent groups. I had never witnessed or even heard about the committee playing that role, but sure enough in the records provided to me, there was a form for placing a grievance through PVLR.
Once in a while, I would indulge myself with an amusing fantasy vision of actually presiding over a PVLR grievance hearing, gaveling it open in some hotel meeting room with tables set up in the usual square, calling witnesses, weighing evidence, and dispensing committee-fashioned justice to aid the afflicted and punish the guilty. However, what I really thought, fantasies aside, was that if someone did submit a grievance form, there would be nothing whatever PVLR could do in the way of setting up as a court that would not risk all of us ending up in a real lawsuit brought by whomever it was we had pronounced against.
The original mandate, I was told, was a relic of the age we hardly were aware had ended, when there was no email, no listservs, and no blogs to instantly air grievances in as private, semi-private, or public a manner as anyone who nursed one cared to go about doing it. A few scam artists who had set themselves up as “publishers,” but really were only about collecting prepayments for books they never intended to deliver had burned a lot of libraries in earlier days, leading to the PVLR grievance form, which, by the time I had inherited it, had fallen into disuse.
Not everyone entirely agreed at the outset, but we did manage to get PVLR formally out of the tribunal business. At about the same time, ALCTS was beginning to convert certain longstanding committees, such as PVLR, into today’s “interest groups.” Now the move seems nothing but good sense, but at the time there was a bit of resistance, as some people saw the change as a drop in status.
As chair when the change occurred, I will never forget the help I got from ALCTS leaders like Brian Schottlaender, whom I remember explaining the rationale for the switch, Charles Wilt, who helped with the mechanics of the organizational change, and Olivia Madison, who visited a somewhat skeptical PVLR group during one ALA conference to explain the change in person.
Ever since, PVLR has hummed along producing “open forums” for each and every ALA Annual Conference and Midwinter Meeting, and some of them have been SRO events. While the group no longer sits as judge and jury, we have “adjudicated” regularly in a different way, through forums that have aired issues that affect anyone with an interest in how libraries and private companies do business together.