Take control, outsource!

Cortina Days … when libraries were just about books

Cortina Days … when libraries were just about books

September 18, 2014
Comments off

Memories from the days when libraries were just about books.  Yes, that long ago!

[su_box title=”About the author” style=”bubbles” box_color=”#14155b”]The author of ‘Cortina days’, spent many years as a rep and consultant, working with libraries. The title indicates the standard vehicle issued to virtually all representatives during the ‘70s and ‘80s. In those days there were very few mobile ‘phones or PC’s and the lap top was some years away yet. His area was virtually the whole of the British Isles and this meant many years of working ‘a week from home, then a week away’ and so on. The particular area in which he worked was that of bookbinding and paper conservation, in pursuit of which he often found himself with materials in the boot of his car which were worth many times the value of his family home. In those days, libraries worked in a very different way and although the basic aim of ‘to educate and entertain’ was still the same, the way in which it was approached was often very different from that of today. As with libraries both then and now, the aim of these little episodes in the life of a library services rep may also entertain. [/su_box]


During the 1980’s there was a fierce rivalry between suppliers from north of the border and those from England. I represented an English company, but a major part of my territory was in Scotland. So roughly once a quarter, I found myself following a fairly regular route, starting in the Borders, then up to the Lothian’s, Edinburgh, Dundee and so on to Aberdeen. Every other trip took me across from Aberdeen to Inverness, then back down through the Great Glen and into Strathclyde. Strathclyde and Glasgow always seemed to have the best names for things, like the hairdressers in Cumbernauld called ‘Aff yer Heed’, or the pub in Glasgow called ‘The Muscular Arms’!

When I started visiting north of the border I was quite new to the trade and it was the time when the Scottish National Party was really making its presence felt and it gradually became clear to me that several of my customers were purchasing on political lines and favouring Scottish suppliers over ourselves. This became very clear to me when I called upon a gentleman I had previously met in the company of my predecessor during his goodbye and my inaugural tour, when we all adjourned to a very agreeable local hostelry for lunch and the odd ‘dram’. The same procedure was followed when I called on him alone for the first time and after lunch we returned to his office and I thought it only right to kick in with my sales pitch, which had not been encouraged thus far during our encounter.

I had only got into the first part of my pitch when he raised his arm and held up his hand, palm towards me in a clear sign for me to stop. A brief silence followed into which he inserted the statement. ‘Laddie, I think you should appreciate that we do not send work south of the border’. I thought for a moment and came up with what I thought was a good response, based on my knowledge of what was and was not available ‘north of the border’. ‘What if you require something that is not available in Scotland?’ I asked.

He considered this for a long moment and then fixed me with a piercing gaze. ‘Och we’ll do wiout it’. He replied, then rose to bid me farewell and assure me it was nothing personal.

Many years later our company did a considerable amount of business with the same authority which I must admit gave me a certain sense of pleasure and on several occasions I could be seen smiling secretly to myself as I watched our people going about their business.


Coming Up Next Month  THE TIMES