Here’s to 2010
by Dick Kaser
According to the people we spoke with at the Online Information show in London last month, the year promises to be another challenging one for libraries and information vendors. Of course, the word “challenging” is a relative term that often euphemistically connotes the worst of difficulties, but most people who used “challenging” to describe the year ahead said it with a sigh of relief.
You can hear the inflection for yourself, as well as see the looks on people’s faces, by visiting our Live From London blog (www.infotodayblog.com), since we decided to incorporate video into the blog format this year.
On the site, you’ll hear and see how users, vendors, and analysts are viewing the state of the industry at year’s end and what they project for this year. There is also related coverage in this month’s issue of Information Today.
How has the industry weathered the difficult year that has just passed, and how is it preparing for 2010? Let’s focus on the bright spots that emerged from our video interviews:
Independent information professionals reported that they have been the beneficiaries of an upswell in outsourced business in 2009, the ironic result of reduced internal resources within the commercial sector. On the upside, info pros observe that companies are appreciating more and more how much they need information, the value of information services, and the important role that information professionals play. So the desperate year just ending may yet reveal a silver lining for independent information professionals and those looking for newly opening positions in the commercial sector.
For the most part, vendors were “cautiously optimistic” about the year ahead. Many are waiting to see how the 2009 economic difficulties have impacted library budgets for 2010. According to the analysts and industry observers we met with in London, the situation is the brightest for those who provide medical/healthcare information or government data, but even those in the troubled news industry are projected to see an end to the revenue death spiral they experienced in 2009.
Most of the people we interviewed were quick to point out that conditions vary by market sector and by geographic region. While U.S. information budgets may remain contracted this year, some vendors see hope in emerging markets. So in 2010, many vendors will be continuing to focus on growth opportunities abroad, which will help them maintain viability while U.S. markets recover.
Other vendors stressed the importance of delivering services that help their customers reduce costs, increase revenues, or improve efficiency. And a good number advocated that vendors be sensitive to conditions in libraries and offer libraries and librarians good value for money to help them serve more patrons with fewer resources. Many also stressed the importance of focusing on services that will help libraries evolve and develop into the knowledge centers of tomorrow.
While turning the corner on a new year tends to be a bittersweet moment, I don’t think there are many of us who will look back on 2009 and wish we could do it all over again. Perhaps we will look back later and remark at what a significant turning point the year was for the information industry, libraries, and information users.
So goodbye to all that 2009 doled out to us … and good riddance. Here’s to a better tomorrow and a much-improved 2010.