Over the holiday season, everyone in the library seems to take on some duties that they do not regularly perform. I have been sorting the incoming mail. Several days ago we got more than a dozen heavy Gaylord catalogs and over the past two days we have received a dozen just-as-heavy Demco catalogs. Poor postal carrier! Some of the names on the mailing labels were individuals who no longer work for us. One has been gone over ten years. Another died about that long ago. Some staff were getting duplicate copies, while others did not want theirs.
After some staff discussions to make sure who in the building really needs catalogs, I called both of the companies and cancelled nine or ten catalogs. In both cases, the customer service staff seemed happy that I had called and promised to remove the names. One said that labels are printed in advance, so we might still see mailings for the removed individuals for six weeks, but our mail should decrease after that time.
As a realist I know that this situation will reoccur. Every time someone places an order, another name goes onto the mailing list. Also, the companies are actually buying names to add to their lists as well.
I could just give up and say "It's their dollar," but it's our dollar, too. The companies are passing the marketing costs on to us in the prices for their products, and we are having to sort and recycle a lot of catalogs and fliers. The waste makes a physical impact on our work.
What would I like to see these companies do?
1. Purge their own lists of any names without recent activity.
2. Review large catalog shipments. The catalogs came bundled, so the companies must see that they are sending many copies to our small library.
3. With every bundle, send a how-to-cancel notice so libraries will learn how easy it is to reduce the number of copies received.
4. Review the sources from which they are buying names. One of the names was a library client who was a board member about fifteen years ago.
As a realist, I suspect that these reforms will not be adapted, but I can try. Marketing seems to be an industry based on waste creation. I think that is lazy and probably ineffective marketing.