“These are the times that test men’s souls,” wrote British-born author and philosopher Thomas Paine back in the days of the American Revolution. His words ring true today as they did more than 200 years ago but in a different context.
Today, we can draw parallels from Paine’s writings to the tough economic times that we’ve faced during the past year. In the information industry, belts were tightened, budgets were cut, and tough decisions were (and are still being) made. But are the bad times over, and what will the next year hold?
Paine signed off many of his inspirational essays with the pseudonym “Common Sense.” So we’ll be including some “common sense” from the industry notables for each day of the blog; the commentary has been excerpted from the front-page article in the December issue of Information Today, which is also available at www.infotoday.com.
Co-Founder and CEO
During the past year, industry leaders and teams learned where we were strong and where we were weak in people, processes, content solutions, leverage—everywhere. There is only good in that, despite how difficult or painful it is. We were forced to look through the eye of the needle and live our theme: No Guts, No Glory. Reward comes to those who focus, take risks, make changes, make a difference, and live their truth.
As we head into 2010, we continue to enter the age of experience, and the publishers and providers that pick the right markets and continue to offer a better experience at an equal or better value will be those who find the money and grow, thrive, and profit. It’s about execution on all levels.
These are the same traits for the companies that grew in 2009, and they do exist: offerings in mobile, social, and global workflow; qualified leads; a service-oriented and warm and friendly team; CEOs who answer their own phones; sales teams that are professional, knowledgeable, and easy to do business with; content delivered into new environments such as Facebook; and interactive learning. Those will be the differentiators.
As our industry matures from the effect of circa-2000 technologies, delivering value, shedding what no longer works, offering better service, and competing on scale and cost all matter. Technology is now evolving to offer better experiences, not just better analytics or better delivery, but interactive, 3D, portable, visual, auditory, and sensory experiences. It is now a market-share game, and it is about finding new budget pockets. At the end of the day, it’s survival of the fittest, and we will continue to see that play out in 2010.
Ex Libris North America
“Fragile” is the only suitable word to describe the current situation, and “likely to recur” seems a disturbing but more probable description of the future we face.
The end result is, I believe, a sea change event for libraries and information professionals. It’s one that was probably needed for quite some time. It’s unfortunate that it had to be realized via such painful measures. I hope the following has been learned as a result:
The need for focused goals—Ask 10 librarians or information professionals what they think their “value-add” is to information, and you’ll get 10 distinct answers. This must change, since we can’t be all things to all people. We must build toward some common professional goals that are well-defined and universally understood.
The need for funding at the highest levels to support achieving focused goals—As long as information professionals are tied to local (or department) funding, local needs will always override a higher focus, and that’s part of what got us in the mess we’re in right now. Again, we need to have some inspirational, focused, broadly understood goals and speak with one voice in order to assure their achievement.
The need to rethink our profession—Maurice Line, former director general of The British Library, said it best when he said, “Unless we can see our future in a far broader context, we may not have a future. Our territory is being lost while we think we are defending it, because we are defending the form and not the substance, and the substance is changing.” He’s right.
Let’s map out how this new vision contributes value to the people we serve. Only then will we be able to truly recover from what has happened and survive what may recur while being stronger than in the past.