No excuses: Syndetics

It must be an age thing – but as I’m getting further into my 50’s I’m becoming less tolerant of fancy sounding reasons and explanations that are actually just excuses for staving off change. This is the first of a series of posts on things that really annoy me as an international librarian, with a smattering of understanding of technology and a desire to serve ALL students, teachers, parents and administrators in my community as best I can. I have an overdeveloped sense of fairness and justice and I sometimes feel that librarians as a group are just too nice and suck up way too many things.


I’ll also admit to being emboldened by a FABULOUS new biography on women called “Brazen” (coming out in English next year – thank you Netgalley for the preview copy) You can preorder your copy now – suitable for High School 13+. And in fact this book just highlights what I’m going to write about today. This book originated in French. I’m currently totally inspired by the Guardian’s World library list and wanted to replicate it, adapted for primary school, particularly with a view to Uniting Nations day coming up in November.

bangladeshNow I work really hard at trying to transform my library into one that is representative of my students. I love the fact that my one Bangladeshi student asks me every week if I have any new books about or set in Bangladesh. And that at the beginning of term she came to proudly tell me that she was no longer the one and only but had been joined by another family. And when I showed her our new book about Bangladesh she took time out of her library browsing time to show me all the things the book depicted that were special to her.

I also work hard on my libguides to make sure that my books are showcased graphically and visually to make perusing them interesting for primary level students. So this is when I get really annoyed that Syndetics, the one interface for front covers that just about every system, from OPAC to libguides to LibraryThingsforLibraries uses does NOT seem to recognise that there is a publishing industry outside of the BANA (Britain, Australia, North America) countries – in fact they even struggle with Australia most the time. And don’t let me even consider China – well they cheat a bit – a lot actually – thinking that one ISBN number should suffice for a whole series of books – even if there are 57 books in the series.

This means that my libguide with my books from and about other countries, my catalog and my destiny discover new books respectively looks like this:


Spot the problem? And Syndetics actually prides itself in the fact that the covers of the coverless books are now colourful with title and author. NOT GOOD ENOUGH! For my catalog, my library assistants spend hours manually inserting the covers, and for the much touted, over promised under-delivered Destiny discover it’s just a blue boring nothing. So 5 of my 8 most recently purchased books are just blue blobs. So if you’re a librarian trying to diversify AND to make your new purchases appealing the cards are stacked against you.

Before I started writing this post I thought I’d do a bit of research into Syndetics, and the whole cover image thing. And then I thought no damnit. I won’t.  I don’t really care what the reason or excuse is. They’re selling an expensive service. They’re complicit in not improving the marketing of diversity of literature and I’m just going to put it out there and they can do the explaining, and hopefully a bit of soul searching on how they can make this better. What BIG things, what IMPORTANT and sea-change things they, as a big corporation as opposed to me as a little librarian in a little library serving 650 students from 40 nations can achieve.





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