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Nov 15 / Christine Illichmann

What does a library vendor do? A guest post with alumna Rita King

Rita King, MLIS ’03

SIS Alumna Rita King is our featured guest blogger. Rita shares her insights on the work of library vendors. She is the Children’s and Teen Services Manager, Western Region for Baker & Taylor.

After graduating Wayne State University in 2003, I never imagined I would be traveling the United States visiting public libraries helping them streamline their workflow or helping them strategize new ways to better serve their communities, but that is exactly what I am doing today.  I am the Children’s and Teen Services Manager for the Western Region of the United States.  I work to support children and teen librarians west of the Mississippi, including Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.  I started working with public libraries as a youth librarian for Kent District Library in Michigan over 15 years ago.  I became a Branch Manager at Muskegon Area District Library before joining the CATS team at Baker & Taylor in 2016.

Baker & Taylor is a premier worldwide distributor of digital and print books and entertainment products. I never thought working for a vendor would teach me so much.  The company focuses on community outcomes which is in direct response to libraries reaching out to Baker & Taylor in need of products and services that will help them meet the growing needs of their community.   The best way to describe what I do is that I am a librarian to the librarians for Baker & Taylor.  If you were in Dr. Joseph Mika’s (now retired professor) Introductory to Library Science class you may remember him saying that you will never know everything there is to know about the world, but you will be the gateway to information as a librarian.  When I meet with librarians throughout the country, I let them know that I am their advocate and gateway.  If I don’t know the answer I will search for it and find it for them just like I would if I was working the reference desk.

I have learned that other various vendors including mine hire vast amounts of MLIS degreed librarians throughout their company.  Some of us have worked in libraries before and some come to the company directly after graduation.  Most of the degreed librarians work for the collection development department and currently require you to move to the city in which the company is based, but I have heard that may be changing!  If you are looking for something different at any point in your career I would recommend it.  It has been a beneficial learning experience visiting librarians all over the country for me and who knows what this experience will do for the journey I have ahead!