Using New Technologies to Alter Industry Dynamics

What position do libraries occupy in the information food chain? Are they defenseless prey for vendors and manufacturers of information resources and tools? Are they followers of the herd, constantly chasing after customers but unable to compete with more nimble and responsive information solutions such as smartphones? Or do they play a more nuanced role, influencing the information environment as much as they are influenced by it?

David Stern believes the last statement is closest to the truth.

“. . . [L]ibraries are far more than just passive purchasing agents for tools and resources,” he writes in Information Outlook. “New technologies are allowing libraries to participate more proactively throughout the information life cycle. Libraries are influencing the direction of the information marketplace as they become more active as producers, hosts, purchasing agents, and collaborators with other industry players.”

From institutional repositories that allow libraries to work directly with faculty and students who produce content to on-demand printing systems that enable libraries to implement just-in-time purchasing models, new technologies are emerging that are transforming the role of libraries from passive consumers of information resources to change agents within the information ecosphere. The challenge facing libraries now, David says, is to identify future uses for technology.

“What might be some of the next areas for library exploration?” he asks. “Two areas that might be ripe for consideration are (1) better integration and evaluation of electronic books and (2) assessing the return on investment of continuing the ‘big deal’ journal pricing packages.”

To learn more about these two areas and how libraries are using other technologies to disrupt the balance of power within the information industry, read David’s “Info Tech” column in the January-February issue of Information Outlook.

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