The questions you ask
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CTA. 2002. The questions you ask. Spore 101. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/47739
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore101.pdf
Alongside the many words of praise from respondents to the Uses of Spore Survey about CTA and Spore, some others asked about CTA activities and services. They wanted to know about seminars, training events, subscriptions and the credit points system...
Alongside the many words of praise from respondents to the Uses of Spore Survey about CTA and Spore, some others asked about CTA activities and services. They wanted to know about seminars, training events, subscriptions and the credit points system and how they can join them. Some complained about the quality of CTA s services: publications not received; subscription requests denied; letters, sometimes a whole series, never answered. Spore held a Frequently-Asked-Questions session with CTA staff. Spore: How can people attend training sessions or seminars with CTA support? CTA: We sponsor the participation of ACP nationals in international and regional conferences, seminars and workshops relevant to their work in agricultural and rural development. In 2001, 189 individuals were supported. Detailed applications, preferably from event organisers, should reach CTA 6 months ahead. The Seminar Support Programme does not sponsor staff of international bodies, nor attendance at national meetings. CTA s training events are listed on its Website. Normally, candidates are nominated and selected by the regional organiser; applications to CTA are passed on to the organiser. Seminars which are (co-)organised by CTA are by invitation only. They too are listed on the CTA Website. Explain your subscription system Spore: Turning to the clients of your publications services, you use the word subscriber a lot. It s a bit confusing. CTA: For printed publications there are two types of subscribers. The full service subscription is to our Publications Distribution Service, known as PDS. A PDS subscriber (there are more than 30,000) gets a copy of Spore, plus a number of credit points each year for ordering books and other materials from our Publications Catalogue. A Spore subscriber gets Spore, but no other services. Spore subscribers number about 3,000. You have to apply to be a PDS or Spore subscriber and meet certain conditions. Spore: No other subscribers? CTA: Yes. You can subscribe to electronic services on the Internet, no questions asked; for example, to the Spore Email Ennouncement which summarises the latest edition and links to the CTA Website. That s very popular, with about 3,000 subscribers. Or you can get the bi-monthly ICT Update about information and communication technologies in agriculture, or the quarterly Agritrade bulletin about agricultural trade negotiations. These two have about 1,000 subscribers. The ICT Update is also available on demand in print. Spore: Who can subscribe to what? CTA: To be a PDS subscriber, you must be actively involved in agriculture and rural development in an ACP country. You should also be in a position, either as an individual or professionally, to share and pass on information. You must show this on your application form you can request one by mail, or get it from the CTA Website. We re strict about the criteria for PDS subscriptions because of the value of the publications we provide, the growing demand and our limited budget: two out of three applications get accepted. Basically, the more you do with the information (but you must show this, and not just say it), the more chance you have. We also encourage applications from women and people involved in small agricultural production and processing enterprises they are under-represented in our clientele. And, to be honest, we have had so many requests from some sectors in some countries that we introduced a queuing system, which we shall soon modify. To be just a Spore subscriber is easier. You must be based in either an ACP or an EU country and give details of your active involvement in agriculture and rural development. To remove any confusion between PDS and Spore applications, we are preparing a separate form for Spore. To subscribe to an electronic service, just follow the instructions given online. Who gets credit points? Spore: A lot of people want to know how to get credit points, or more of them. CTA: We give credit points only to PDS subscribers; the exact number given each year depends on your work and your information needs. The leader of a village co-op may get, for example, only 50 points, but this could buy perhaps 10 practical manuals. A researcher may get 100 points, because the two or three books s/he needs are much more expensive than manuals. We try to be fair to everyone and it seems to work in most cases. A few people, about 20 a year, present sound arguments for getting more points. When there are good reasons, such as moving to a more responsible or outreaching job, then we allocate more points. And we try to help everyone make the best selection: if you have wide responsibilities, we send you the Publications Catalogue and its supplements to choose from. Otherwise, we send special announcements about new publications which, as we all know, are always covered in Spore. By the way, credit points can be used only for ordering from this list, through CTA, and they cannot be transferred to another person. Spore: Why do most PDS subscribers get fewer points in their second and subsequent years? CTA: Simple! You get more in the first year to start off your collection. Later on, you ll have settled down and just be interested in new items and topping up the collection. Spore: But all this is only for people in ACP countries and, for Spore subscriptions, EU countries too. Why these limits? CTA: We operate under the Cotonou Agreement between ACP and EU countries, and we work for them. We know, of course, that our information is useful for people elsewhere, but they must buy our publications or a Spore subscription from our sales agent (see New commercial distributor on page 15). If you can use the World Wide Web, you can download all CTA s own publications, and all Spore issues since 1997, free, without geographical restrictions. And the complaints? Spore: Every information service gets complaints, and you perhaps fewer than many others, but what are you doing about yours? CTA: Some people do complain, it s true, and every complaint is one too many. Sometimes people want to know where their order is, or why they ve received only four out of five books ordered. Often, they are impatient since the mail can be very slow, or maybe they didn t notice our letter saying that some books are temporarily out of stock and will be sent later. Sometimes, books disappear en route. We can t use safer courier services, or replace books, because it would eat up a year s budget in a few weeks! So much is outside our control. Our goal is for an order to leave our distributor s warehouse within 10 days of receipt. Right now, the average turn-around is 6 days, not bad at all. We do have more serious delays with applications for subscriptions: in 2001, we had 3,400 and our backlog is now 3 months. It s due mainly to staff shortage and the need to screen applications. Even at the best of times, there are less than five people working in PDS, including marketing and promotion. Even if distribution is done by outside companies, for us to deal with 33,000-plus subscriptions and orders for more than 81,000 books in a year is quite an achievement. We hope we ll have a bit more breathing space soon. Maybe we ll even have time to draw up a Customer Service Charter, where all our service goals and procedures, including for complaints, will be there for all to see! Then there are occasional delays in getting Spore into the hands of subscribers. Earlier this year there was a crush of work, including some management changes and an unforeseen excess of work for the compilers, plus the Uses of Spore Survey which got more responses than expected; we regret these delays and hope that the delivery schedule will soon be back on course.
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