Infomancy n. 1.The field of magic related to the conjuring of information from the chaos of the universe. 2.The collection of terms, queries, and actions related to the retrieval of information from arcane sources.

Open Letter to Follett Software

March 15th, 2010 by infomancy

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
infomancy@gmail.com

http://schoolof.info/infomancy

10 Responses to “Open Letter to Follett Software”

  1. Kathy Lowe Says:

    Chris, This is such an articulate and well-supported response. I was unaware of Cognite and Follett’s marketing of the product. Thank you for asking Follett to continue to support school librarians. As sponsor of the national School Library Media Program of the Year Award, their support and advocacy have been invaluabel and I hope they continue!

  2. Sara Kelly Johns Says:

    Great letter…keep us all posted! Sara

  3. Cathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts » Blog Archive » Oh Follett, say it aint so!! Says:

    [...] 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 [...]

  4. Gwyneth Jones Says:

    OMWord! Not this NOW! I can’t believe this! Do people really just NOT get it???….yeah anyone (or anything) can tell you WHERE something is when searching…but the School Librarian teaches critical evaluation skills once the item is found. Does it suit your task? Is the item credible? Academic? Gah! Don’t get me started!
    ~Gwyneth

  5. Follett Cognite – Details - Infomancy Says:

    [...] Comments Gwyneth Jones on Open Letter to Follett SoftwareCathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts » Blog Archive » Oh Follett, say it aint so!! [...]

  6. Cathy Nelson Says:

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE share with us if you get a response!

  7. Gwyneth Jones Says:

    yes, Christ…please please please share what (if any) response you get!

  8. Nancy White Says:

    Chris, Thank you for keeping the library community informed of this situation. Your letter is excellent! We all need to talk to our reps about this – so Follett understands how dangerous this omission is – especially during these perilous times.

  9. Tom Schenck Says:

    Dear Mr. Harris,

    Your “Open Letter to Follett Software” reminded me of the passion that librarians like you have for the profession. From the beginning, we’ve built our reputation on that passion, helping librarians play a crucial role in K-12 education.

    As you said, Follett Software Company has always supported the needs of libraries. Rest assured that we’re still in your corner.

    Librarians are well aware that their role is changing, and so is Follett. Our passion for libraries is what has moved us to find new ways to help you do your job. As a digital learning environment, Cognite takes the best of what you’ve worked so hard to build — a resource-rich library — and brings it into the classroom or beyond, wherever learning, sharing and collaboration takes place.

    Our website, as you stated, does not mention “librarian,” but the librarian is the foundation for the Cognite product. Cognite does not replace the librarian in any way, but instead extends your influence and expertise. When you said that Follett Software needs to “showcase the librarian…as the expert who can support the spread of information and resources using powerful new tools like Cognite,” you hit the nail on the head. You—the librarian—can make the difference in helping identify the right resources. When you purchase Cognite, you use the resources in your library to “stock the shelves” in Cognite. Log onto Cognite as a library media specialist and you will be able to instantly collaborate with teachers, students and parents. Cognite leverages the materials from your library, and makes sure your teachers and students are aware of the depth of your online database subscriptions, safe WebPath Express websites or other digital resources. Your input can provide guidance to the right resources that help students succeed.

    Maybe some of the best content out there is something you’ve created yourself. Let’s say you’ve penned a knock-out information literacy plan leveraging the print and online resources from your library. Now you can share it with teachers or across the district through one collaborative project workspace. There’s no limit to the educational information you can discover and share with others, including parents.

    We want to help librarians like you create an educational experience where K-12 students excel. In today’s digital world, that means bringing everyone together—librarians, teachers, students and parents. It’s not an easy task, and, right now, times are challenging for everyone involved in education, no matter what role you play. Just like today’s libraries, we’re up for the challenge. Thank you for opening the dialog, and we encourage more discussion on the changing role of the library, and how we, as vendors, can help.

    Sincerely,

    Tom Schenck
    Group President
    Follett Technology, Software, and International Group

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