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ONLINE SEARCHER: Information Discovery, Technology, Strategies

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Here We Go
Volume 41, Number 1 - January/February 2017

Well, so it looks like I may not live to see a woman president. My feminist heart, while not broken, is badly bruised. (Toe-curdling deep sigh.)

Instead, we have an unknown future in front of us. Take a look at the analysis by Hugh Logue, director and lead analyst at Outsell Inc. ( Even confining one’s predictive concerns to the information industry, the picture is filled with unknown factors. On one hand, the information industry seems like it should be a prime market for people and firms defined by their abilities to supply answers. On the other hand, would we be in this position if “real people” were heeding facts? As Logue points out:

Despite the gloomy rhetoric during the campaign, recent economic data shows that the US headed into the election in a healthy state. The US inflation rate is pacing less than 2%. As of September, the US unemployment rate is 5%, the Global Purchasing Manager Index was at a two-year high in October 2016, US gas prices remain under $3 a gallon, and US real GDP grew at an annual rate of 2.9%, in Q3 2016, as compared to 1.4% in Q2 2016. Recent market volatility, therefore, is not a result of weak corporate fundamentals, but rather the uncertainty on how the healthy economy will change, post-election. At the same time, Trump’s win points to a deep current of frustration that goes beyond these numbers.

So here we go, and uncertainties pave the way. However, if campaign promises mean anything, universities may experience cuts in funding and rigorous review of their charges. Academic library budgets may receive more restrictions. While this may challenge services relying on print or digital versions of print, it may lead to greater academic dependence and encouragement of open access sourcing. Faculty may find curricula must rely on open texts. Librarians may launch vigorous programs to assist faculty in finding the best and freest (or at least cheapest) sources. Sharing the information with colleagues on other campuses should characterize the librarian’s professional commitment to collegial generosity. Online education in general may flower if support for traditional sources declines.

Logue contends that certain areas should definitely receive attention by the new administration, in particular, net neutrality, consumer privacy, and cybersecurity. The new administration may have more expertise in the area of cybersecurity than Logue could have predicted. As this editorial was being written, leading news sources released the story that the FBI had acquired a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Ac) warrant to investigate Trump’s computer servers and the actions of three of his campaign executives in dealing with Russian banks and personal interactions with Russian leadership.

How effective the new administration, even with a Republican Congress, will be in making major changes remains to be seen. Even the attempts, however, should lead opponents to initiate alternative private sector approaches to achieve national goals. And that would mean significant support for information gathering and sharing and, hopefully, the critical evaluation of any new sources or new information created.

Logue adds, “Although he hasn’t said much about specific policies related to science, Trump has referred to the space program as ‘a luxury,’ and a possible rollback of government investment in scientific research and development under a Trump presidency could impact IM functions within scientific and technical organizations.” While launching a private space program might be reaching a bit, other areas of science and research might find suitable private sector support. One would hope that information professionals would find ways to make sure that private sector support does not impose unbreachable barriers to circulation of information. In the case of research, none know better than our profession that circulation is as necessary to the life of research as circulation of blood is to human life.

In conclusion, Logue remarks, “The winner has to tap into creating certainty whether in job growth, infrastructure fixes, immigration policy, healthcare, Supreme Court nominees, international affairs, and streamlining the regulatory and tax morass in which the US now sits.” Like any objective analyst, Logue is being restrained in his judgments, but it would seem that bootstrapping beneficial efforts to ensure the future of this nation and the world it leads is a likely outcome.

And if the people of America—all the people—can step up to meet the challenges, it looks like we will “be great again,” although to tell the truth, I thought we always were. But then I have a bookmark/favorite connection to PolitiFact on my machines.  Sigh.

The late Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, contributing editor for ITI's NewsBreaks, and a columnist for Information Today.


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