What’s Wrong With Lexis & Thomson Reuters/West? – Desperation

I was enjoying the latter part of a few days off today (at the Bronx Zoo with the family), so I didn’t read about this until I got home.  Apparently, the West marketing geniuses sent out the following e-mail blast:

"Are you on a first name basis with the librarian?  If so, chances are, you’re spending too much time at the library. What you  need is fast, reliable research you can access right in your office. And  all it takes is West®."

Update: Here is a shot of the offending e-mail.

Today, I taught my 6 year old daughter the meaning of the word, "doi".  I had a hard time explaining what it meant, but I now realize that I should have pointed her to this post.  What was West thinking?  The person who posted the initial message then wrote:

"I object to a marketing campaign that takes this approach. It’s offensive to me on many levels, some of which are professional and others of which  are based on a view of community that includes leaving your office and  interacting with colleagues – especially those who may be knowledgeable in  areas that you’re not."

Not only is it offensive, it’s basically a cheap shot against all law librarians that work closely with the attorneys/students and administration at law firms, universities, and public law libraries.  Librarians, those that know legal research more than anyone else, are being pinned by West as second class citizens in their organizations, a stereotype that we have fought long and hard to falsify.  This was very unprofessional on the part of West, and they should send an e-mail on their list, apologizing for their lack of appreciation for the ones that tout their products.

Of course, West is not the only vendor that doesn’t care about librarians.  My boss, Ray Jassin, wrote the following in a message to law-lib:

"I received a voice mail from Carol Weber, the head of the Librarian Relations Group at *LexisNexis *advising me the evening before we had a scheduled meeting with Carol Barra and Danielle Francis, that Steven Cohen,  a top staff person, and myself could no longer be given updates or anything  else from the *LexisNexis Librarian Relations Group* in NY. The reason she  gave is that we now are in the* "cash management"* business, because we assist our clients with their library vendor contracts, something I believe  all law librarians handle. This was retaliatory, because they lost a 100+  attorney firm to *Westlaw* due to bottom line and content, and seem to be taking it personally, even though they have been dealing with me since at  least 1982 without any real problems."

So, Lexis lost a big contract at one of our clients (and blamed us for it!) and they retaliate against us by not allowing us to meet with their LRCs.  As many of my readers know, I think that keeping up to date is one of the most important aspects of our profession, and the LRCs have been amazing to us regarding updates.  Then, word from corporate that they told their LRCs to not work with us.  How very sad, not only for us, but for our clients that do use Lexis.

Both of these "doi" moments are similar in that they reek of desperation, an attempt to push librarians aside so that they can deal only with attorneys and administration.  Lexis did this by cutting off relations to the LRCs, and West tried to do this by telling attorneys that they spend too much time in the library if they know their librarian’s first name.  This just doesn’t make any sense, but desperate times are desperate times, and both Lexis and West are gutting it out for business, and they are doing it by casting aside those that they need the most.  Doi indeed.

To be sure, Anne Ellis, Senior Director of Librarian Relations from Thomson Reuters, tried to simmer the boil, by writing:

"After reading about it in this forum, I tracked down the e-mail and was very concerned, as have been all the colleagues here at West when I’ve shown it to them. It’s important that you understand that this does not reflect in any way how West feels about and values librarians. I’ve talked to the people behind the e-mail and can assure you that they meant no harm. They now understand that the marketing piece was in poor taste and I have been assured that this will not happen again."

Of course, it’s not how the message is written, but how it is perceived.  That’s Marketing 101.  My suggestion to the West marketing folk would be that they should be in constant contact with librarians and their LRCs. Anne’s message may have stopped many librarians from fanning the flames, and I hope that the marketing department from West learned from their mistakes, but I have a feeling that their "doi" moment will happen again.

As for Lexis, I don’t know if we will be meeting with the LRCs in the future.  I certainly hope they change their mind, as shutting out librarians because they lost a deal still does not sit well with me.  It’s as if we were being punished for the mistakes made by their co-workers.  I have my fingers crossed that they will reverse their decision and let us meet with their LRCs soon.  I sure do miss Carol and Danielle.

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