In a world where digital transformation is not just a buzzword but a necessity, the stark reality of the ‘innovation gap’ is a challenge that many archives and libraries continue to face and struggle with executing. As custodians of knowledge and culture, libraries and archives play a pivotal role in our societies. However, the delays to modernise can lead to a chasm between what is available and what users need. This gap has far-reaching implications, not just for current users but also for future generations of corporate and archive professionals.
To bridge this gap, in the coming year, libraries and archives must embrace modernisation, not just as a means to an end but as a continuous process.
The Innovation Gap Defined
The ‘innovation gap’ in the context of specialised libraries and archives refers to the discrepancy between the services offered with modern technology and the outdated or traditional practices still employed. This gap manifests in various forms – from inefficient knowledge capture and limited digital resources to inadequate online presence. As a result, libraries and archives that do not modernise risk becoming obsolete.
The Cost of Stagnation
Stagnation in library and archive services often results in decreased user engagement. Today’s users expect a level of response and service that outdated library and archive systems cannot provide. Millennials and Gen Z, who have been brought up in the digital age, are particularly discerning about the platforms in which they choose to engage. Archives and libraries that fail to offer modern research tools are quickly bypassed in favour of more technologically adept alternatives and the problem only proliferates over time.
Moreover, the absence of modern systems can lead to inefficient use of resources. Staff spend excessive time on manual processes that could be automated, and users face longer wait times and less accurate and thorough information.
The Security and Risk
Outdated technology is not just inefficient; it’s vulnerable. Cybersecurity is a growing concern, and older systems often lack the necessary defences to protect sensitive data. Furthermore, as the materials in libraries and archives increasingly transition from print to digital, without modern systems capable of handling the complexities of digital formats, we risk losing pieces of our intellectual property and brand history.
The Modernisation Imperative
The need for modernisation is clear, but what does it entail? It goes beyond simply digitising the current catalogue. True modernisation touches every aspect of library and archive services:
- Implementing comprehensive digital platforms that facilitate and online research.
- Adopting data analytics to gain insights into user behaviour, helping to tailor services and knowledge capture to user needs.
- Expanding digital archiving capabilities to ensure the longevity of digital resources.
- Modernising physical spaces to create collaborative, technology-friendly environments.
The Economic Argument
Investing – both time and money – in modernisation may seem daunting, especially for many archives and libraries facing budget constraints. However, the return on investment can be significant. Modern libraries can increase usage, which can translate to increased funding. They can reduce long-term costs through creating process efficiencies and potentially generate revenue by providing innovative services.
The Path Forward
To bridge the innovation gap, visionary librarians and archivists have become the lead advocate to obtain the resources necessary to modernise. We’ve seen greatest success when a virtual diverse team is built with both internal and external perspectives. Often it involves engaging with the user groups to understand current and future needs, identify stakeholders to aid in the change mandate, and working with staff to ensure training requirements are realistic and achievable, as well as collaborating with technology partners to implement solutions that can deliver against early milestones upon which to build momentum for achieving more longer-term sustained transformation.
A Call to Action
Special libraries and archives are dynamic institutions to support the success of the company. The need for modernisation is not merely about keeping pace with technology but about fulfilling the archive and library’s mission now in today’s digital age.
As we look to the future, the innovation gap presents both a warning and an opportunity. Soutron Global for more than three decades has been a proven technology solutions partner to special libraries and archives to support their modernization goals. If you are interested in learning more about the best practices we’ve developed with leading organisations around the world, book a discovery meeting with one of our experts.