It is not a big secret that the present state of information management, and, in particular, certain sectors such as libraries and information centers is somewhat discouraging. The disappearance of many libraries around the world and their diminishing budgets and purchasing power is evident almost everywhere. Public and specialized libraries, and in particular libraries belonging to small and medium corporations, have been hit particularly hard. As an illustration, in the United Kingdom alone, almost 8,000 jobs, a quarter of all library staff, have disappeared in the last 6 years. During the same period, 343 libraries were closed, leading to fears about the future of the profession(1).
“Of all things I liked books best”. Nikola Tesla, the genius who lit the world
As staff cuts increases and professional work decreases, the number of volunteers working in libraries has increased, leading to the belief that library services can be run by volunteers. Although volunteers are welcome, they cannot deliver adequate professional and ethical services offered by information professionals. Skill gaps are evident and they have a negative impact on the trust of library patrons and information users regarding the quality of services they receive.
One of the factors having a negative impact on information management, and libraries in particular, is the notion that everything is already on the web. All we need to do is search Google and all of our information needs are met. There is very little understanding that in order to appear as a Google search result, a piece of information first needs to be placed and maintained on a particular website. The reliability, authenticity and correctness of information resources is not given adequate consideration, which leads to errors, lost time, and erroneous outcomes. This competitive positioning of Google, Amazon and similar services vs. libraries is of no benefit to the actual users who need information on daily basis to do their work.
Another element that defines the state of information management today is the remarkable increase in price for information content by almost all suppliers, making access even more difficult. A study done by Times Higher Education(2) found that the amount paid to Oxford University Press rose by 49.2 per cent between 2010 and 2014. The amount paid to Springer rose by 36.3 per cent and the amount to Wiley by 33.5 per cent. The smallest rise of 17.4 per cent was in subscriptions to Elsevier journals. Overall subscription cost increased by 23.9 per cent. Similar price hike is also evident in the increasing cost of new library management systems and their related add-on applications.
The protection of intellectual property rights present information management with challenges at all stages of work, starting from the creation of digital documents, and the selection and acquisition of external materials, to access rights and long-term preservation. Electronic publications offer an opportunity to widen the access to information, and the flood of information through the Internet illustrates this. However, at the same time, it also requires information managers to increase access control and more closely monitor the use of information.
All this is taking place at the same time as users increase their demands for faster delivery of information in a variety of formats and with certain value added to the raw information and documentation. Will the information management professionals working in this area be able to meet the challenge is an open question. However, we should not forget the words of one of the greatest scientists of all time –
“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library”. Albert Einstein
(2) Times Higher Education, 30 October 2014
DISCLAIMER: Any views or opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of his employer.