There was a time when good manners and ways of approaching people were common practice. Now it seems everything must be assessed and accredited. In an age when family support groups are dwindling, external corroboration is taking off, whether it be via social media or ‘professional’ certification. These certificates are not given out for free. For a degree, diploma, driving test or piano exam, someone is footing the bill. But these processes answer a basic human need for validation.
Now Waterstones is setting up an academy where employees will be taught how to sell books. They will study modules with titles like: ‘Engaging your customers’ and ‘selling to customers’. This has been announced amid a fanfare of self-congratulation, as a UK “industry first”, a professional qualification in bookselling, run in partnership with the University of Derby - who are presumably not offering their support gratis. The Senior Learning and Development Manager at Waterstones said: 'We are delighted to be working with the University of Derby Corporate on developing this innovative course for booksellers.’ (University of Derby Corporate?... A bookseller managing to sell books is an innovative idea?)
As if that wasn’t enough to demonstrate the bookstore chain’s belief in the symbiotic relationship between education and books, Waterstones has reassuringly announced its commitment to the academic books market.
Oh, and on 26th April Waterstones is closing six of its twelve bookshops on university campuses, in Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Derby, Keele and Swansea. (No fanfare.)