8 May 2015

Vegetables vs. Candy

Author: krb3k | Filed under: Uncategorized

A couple of years ago, my husband told me that, with regard to our son, there aren’t any rules when I’m away at conferences. If our son doesn’t want to brush his teeth, he doesn’t have to. If he wants pizza every night, he gets it. If he wants to skip his healthy snack and move straight to cookies, he’s allowed to. Basically, my husband told me, the only rules in effect are going to bed (mostly) on time, and going to school. While this doesn’t thrill me, I understand why he does it: our son misses me a lot when I’m gone, and my husband wants to ease his sadness. Also, though, my husband hates playing the heavy and enjoys the opportunity to be the fun parent ;)

So basically this is the parental breakdown: I make our son eat his veggies; my husbands gives him candy. Bear with me, I’ll work back around to this analogy in a bit.

I share this with you because it’s the opening gambit in my admittedly imperfect analogy for talking about vendor-sponsored parties. This topic came up in last night’s #medlibs Twitter chat (full disclosure: I asked the question) and, because it was after 9PM, I didn’t express my thoughts about it very well. This is my attempt to clarify my own thoughts and put them in some sort of coherent order. PLEASE UNDERSTAND: I am not attempting to change anyone’s mind. I am a writer at heart, and it’s to writing that I always turn when I’m trying to understand something- especially when those somethings are my own feelings and ideas. I’m sharing it because 1) it’s a way to open dialogue: do you have an opposing opinion? Please share it with me. If my own arguments can’t withstand your arguments, then my arguments are weak and need more scrutiny; 2) if I’m going to all the trouble of writing this down, I may as well share it with others.

Here’s some background:

barker question




I refer to it as a “can of worms” because I know that the medical librarians community holds some pretty disparate views and, because this chat was focused about changes for upcoming conferences (particularly the 2016 one), I thought that it was worth asking the question.

Responses to it basically fell into two camps; this one:


roy brown vendors







and this one:


anderson pharma






I can see both sides of this (the curse of the INFJ), but what about this?


cutting collections






Well, in answer to that, there’s this response:


lawrence one party





And that’s true, absolutely. The thousands spent on one party to thank medlibs for their partnerships with a vendor wouldn’t translate into any appreciable savings when divided amongst all of their customers. I get that, truly. But how many of these parties do the vendors pay for at different conferences each year? If we added up the money for each of those parties, would THAT amount be enough to add up to real savings? I don’t know. No, literally I don’t know, because I haven’t done the research.

This brings me to this point:

barker krafty












That’s a fair question, but (and this is what I kept turning over in my head) this is where I come back to my vegetables vs. candy analogy:

The Plenary session is vegetables. Really. Just a big ol’ pile of broccoli and cauliflower. It’s why we came to the conference, in the same way that we mostly eat healthy food to stay alive and well. We’re glad to have it, and grateful to the vendor for sponsoring it, but it’s something that we expect to have and, I would assume, would find a way to have anyway, even if we couldn’t find a vendor sponsor. It’s necessary, in the same way that vegetables are and so, I think, we don’t view vendors who sponsor them in the same light as we do the vendors who sponsor parties. The plenary-sponsoring vendors are just boring ol’ Mom, putting vegetables on our plates.

The parties, though…

The parties are pure candy and the vendors who sponsor those are the Fun Dad. Sure, some people might use them for professional networking, but basically they’re for fun. And they ARE fun! I had the best time at the Field Museum event at last year’s MLA. I loved the scavenger hunt, and taking selfies with both friends and the giant dinosaur skeleton. And I justified my attendance by the fact that I make zero decisions about collections, and by my assumption that surely no one who DOES make those decisions could possibly be swayed to choose a partnership based on the fact that a company threw a nice party for them. However, when I mentioned this to one of my UVa colleagues, she said that, actually, that’s not true. She said that it is well documented that accepting something as simple as a pen sways people towards a more favorable opinion of the pen-giver. I should track these articles down, I know, but it’s my day off and I want to wrap this post up soon. (I’ll try to find them next week).

I hope that I don’t seem like a dour Molly Hatchet, out to spoil everyone’s fun. That’s not my intention. As stated above, I’m writing this mostly to clarify my own position. I have zero interest in persuading anyone to any particular viewpoint in this regard. Y’all are all adults, and what you do in regard to this isn’t my business. Well, it kind of is, but I’m basically a sloth with limited energy, and so I, in the words of  Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins, “Ain’t…got time for that”. 

Differing viewpoints and counter-arguments are welcome, but please don’t yell at me or call me mean names if you disagree. Thanks.