ATG Interviews Mark Kendall

(Senior Vice President, Sales, YBP Library Services) <mkendall@ybp.com>

by Katina Strauch (Editor, Against the Grain) <kstrauch@comcast.net>

ATG: Come again? YBP (Baker & Taylor) has just bought Blackwell Book Services in the US (Blackwell NA)? This is startling news! What will happen to the Blackwell offices in the US?

MK: Our top priority will be to work very closely with Blackwell staff to ensure that all Blackwell customers continue to receive the highest possible level of service while also beginning the process of transitioning accounts over to YBP systems as smoothly and as efficiently as possible. We have tremendous respect for the knowledge and professionalism of the Blackwell team, and will depend on their expertise as the transition goes forward. However, due to redundancies in the workforce and operations, over the course of the next ten to 12 months, Blackwell’s Blackwood, NJ facility will be closed. Blackwell’s Lake Oswego, Oregon offices will remain open for a year or more, depending on business needs.

ATG: What will happen to the Blackwell sales reps et al. (John Laraway? Matt Nauman? Etc.) When will we know who we will deal with?

MK: We are sensitive to the fact that Blackwell regional sales managers (RSM’s), like their YBP counterparts, have established close working relationships with the customers they serve. As noted above, we have great respect for the expertise and relationships that the Blackwell RSM’s have with the libraries they serve, so we will be working very closely with them to transition each library customer from the Blackwell system to YBP.

We are pleased that a number of Blackwell regional sales managers (RSM’s) will become part of the YBP sales team. During the transition period, we will also be evaluating sales territories to ensure that all customers are receiving the highest level of service possible. Customers will be notified of any changes in sales representation, if applicable, before January 1. In addition, Blackwell’s customer service staff will be retained in Oregon for an extended period of time. They will be instrumental in helping transition Blackwell customers to YBP based on their extensive knowledge of the Blackwell account structure, approval plan and systems.

ATG: What will happen to existing Blackwell approval plans? Firm orders?

MK: All Blackwell approval plans and firm order customers will be gradually transitioned to YBP and this will be done in close coordination with each library in a manner that respects existing library workflow processes. We have a great deal of experience transitioning Blackwell customers to our systems, and that expertise will be only be multiplied with the help of the Blackwell customer service and sales teams.

ATG: The Blackwell and YBP thesauri are very different. How will Blackwell Profiles be incorporated into YBP? And isn’t this going to be a lot of extra work for already overworked acquisitions and collection development professionals? Will all approval plap profiles have to be redone really?

MK: Yes, the Blackwell and YBP approval profiling methodologies are quite different. However, YBP has significant experience converting Blackwell approval plans to YBP plans. Our experience shows that simply mapping out, or converting the Blackwell profiles without discussion in the library can take as long or longer then an actual session in the library and does not always yield optimal results. These sessions also allow us to develop a clearer understanding of the library’s collection objectives and, most importantly, the opportunity to engage in productive two-way dialogue that becomes the cornerstone of our future working relationship. Very recently, for example, one of my colleagues was in a library with a sales person converting a profile from another vendor. The selectors had arrived well prepared and seemed to enjoy the sessions. Their comments were positive. They had not reviewed their existing profile in a while, or they were new to their job and all felt it was a worthwhile exercise and not a lot of extra work at all.

Our goal today is the same as it was 35 years ago: to truly craft a precise profile that ensures that libraries receive materials (both print and electronic) that accurately match their current collection development objectives. Our plan is to begin converting approval plans over the coming weeks and Blackwell approval plan customers can expect to hear from both Blackwell and YBP sales representatives as they work together to help begin and facilitate this process. As noted above, YBP has a great deal of experience transitioning Blackwell customers to our systems, and that expertise will only be multiplied with the help of the Blackwell customer service and sales teams.

ATG: How many approval plans are there that need this type of attention?

MK: There are approximately 150 plans.

ATG: This is bound to hurt competition in the book business. Comments? What changes will we see, especially in pricing?

MK: Actually, I would argue that this is probably the most competitive time in the history of bookselling. While there still remain a good number of traditional academic library booksellers (Midwest, Coutts, Emery Pratt, and others) for libraries to choose from, there is also significant competition from less traditional library booksellers including Amazon, Google, B&N, ebook aggregators such as ebrary, EBL, NetLibrary, publisher direct content bundles (both print and electronic), print on demand (POD) options, and specialized out of print (OP) vendors to name but a few. With this level of competition will come competitive pricing.

ATG: What has Blackwell retained? The bookstores and Lindsay & Croft? Other?

MK: Blackwell’s United Kingdom office will continue to operate separately. This includes incorporating Lindsay and Croft into their existing Oxford business as well as continuing to operate their retail book stores. YBP Library Services and Blackwell Ltd. have entered into a reciprocal supply agreement under which Blackwell will supply U.K. published academic books to YBP and, in turn, YBP will supply U.S. published academic books to Blackwell.

ATG: What will be the name of the new company? Who will be in charge? This applies to both Blackwell and YBP/B&T?

MK: Blackwell customers will transition to YBP Library Services, which will replace the Blackwell name in the parts of the world YBP will serve (North and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim). The Blackwell name will be retained in the United Kingdom which includes the Lindsay and Croft business. Blackwell will serve libraries in Europe and Africa. The Blackwell retail business in the U.K. will also remain intact. Blackwell will be under the management of CEO Andrew Hutchings and YBP, Baker and Taylor’s academic division, is led by George Coe, President of B&T’s Library and Education division.

ATG: Why are you not retaining the Blackwell name? You retained the YBP name.

MK: The Blackwell name will be retained by the UK based Blackwell business. This includes the library service business that will support libraries in Europe and Africa as well as the Blackwell retail business.

ATG: If prepayments have been made to Blackwell will they be transferred to YBP?

MK: Prepayments and/or deposit accounts with Blackwell will be transferred to YBP once a library’s account is transitioned to YBP.

ATG: Can you be more specific about how this transition will be managed? It’s effective December 9? My heavens, its Dec. 11 now!

MK: For the time being, it will be “business as usual”. We are now entering an approximately 45-60 day period where we will be undertaking the necessary internal work to prepare for the customer account transitions. Blackwell and YBP operational and sales/service staffs will be working closely in planning each step of the transition. In the weeks and months ahead, all ordering and approval systems and customer support tools will be integrated into a single customer interface which will be GOBI. We will be conducting a “gap analysis” between GOBI and Collection Manager which will result in us incorporating the best features from each service into GOBI. Once that is completed, and after all customers are converted to YBP systems, Collection Manager will be retired. Customer updates regarding the transition planning will be issued frequently.

ATG: Can you tell us about the purchase? How much money or other securities, whatever were involved?

MK: As this was a transaction between two private organizations, we are regrettably unable to disclose any financial aspects of the agreement.

ATG: Where does James Bennett fit into this transaction?

MK: James Bennett Booksellers becomes part of Baker and Taylor. There will be no changes in the James Bennett operation at this time, except a pre-planned move to a larger facility in Australia to accommodate its growth. James Bennett will keep its name.

ATG: Will YBP offer new services that previously were unique to Blackwell?

MK: Yes. Services that were previously unique to one provider, such as Blackwell’s Table of Contents Catalog Enrichment Service, will soon be offered to YBP customers. By combining mutual best practices and resources of both organizations, YBP will provide an even greater level of customer service and support to our customers.

ATG: Will YBP expand their services in any way or hire new personnel? How long has this been in the works?

MK: During the past few years, employment has grown steadily at YBP (including several members of our management team returning to YBP) as we worked to appropriately increase our staff, now at its highest level ever, to meet the needs of our growing volume of business and to offer the increasingly complex new range of services our customers require. With this recent transaction, we are poised to increase our staff size once again to meet the needs of our current, and new, customers. As to how this acquisition came together, both parties have long held mutual respect for one another and acknowledged within the past year that combining our resources would provide a stronger base of resources and capabilities for both organizations to serve libraries worldwide. In fact, the combined organizations create synergies that neither organization could offer on their own. We have noted but one example of a new service offering in response to the previous question.

ATG: Thanks, Mark, for your timely responses!

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