Challenges and Opportunities for the Corporate Librarian

30 Years of Soutron

2019 has arrived and we are happy to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of our company, first established in March 1989. Our business was set up to automate and support IT systems for corporate libraries and we remain totally focused on this sphere of business, developing information management solutions for corporate special libraries and archives.

In 1994 when the internet was just starting to appear, (we called it the world wide web) I recall experimenting with php (a general-purpose scripting language) and the idea of a web site, trying to figure out how it could benefit library automation. At the same time, we were in the midst of Microsoft Windows and Windows NT being rolled out to the desktop PC. Technology was in flux and constantly changing. Exciting times but a challenge to know which way the wind would blow.

Will we still need libraries?

Someone asked me over coffee one morning, “What’s this going to do for libraries? They won’t be needed, will they”? By then it was 1998 and it was becoming a real consideration as libraries were under pressure to do more with less and online databases were becoming widespread. That was 20 years ago. Over the years we have seen corporate libraries close, change their status and morph into knowledge management or information resource services. But the fundamentals haven’t changed. The corporate library is a valuable tool for decision makers that need accurate, validated information, at their fingertips. As long as there is an overload of published information, a dominant feature of an advanced economy, there is a need for the librarian.

Our experience is one of constant demand from clients for the best and latest technologies in their systems and information platforms. I believe that there are more opportunities today for us as a company than when we started in 1989. Database technologies have changed and there is a more sophisticated end user and while communication technologies improve and the web keeps expanding, we see new ideas, innovations and the power of the microchip presenting more ways to harness and use information.

One thing remains constant. The need to filter and distil information. Looking for data now is fast. The volume of data that is now returned and the extent to which it is relevant or truthful and can be relied upon, demands libraries be the trusted guardians.

A good path to take

My assessment in the late-90s was that the massive increase in the volume of data and the reach of the internet would present us with new challenges and we should embrace a fully web-based environment. The introduction of the iPhone in June 2007 opened up new markets and expanded the reach of users to information. Our optimism and decision to focus on serving libraries with new product development proved to be a good path to take, even after 2008 when the world’s financial collapse threatened to knock us off course. We maintained our determination to develop great software and meet the challenges of the past decade head on. For that we are grateful to all of our clients, old and new. We couldn’t have reached such a milestone without your support.

In the future what will be…

So, what lies in store? I hesitate to say more of the same because the world has a habit of introducing change just when you think you have it all worked out. What will ten years hence look like? I firmly believe that libraries will continue to be an essential aid to management in corporate and government enterprises. It’s just too important a task not to have the best means at your disposal to filter and identify the right data and sources. New technologies such as those appearing like Blockchain will make their mark in the years ahead and we will see a move to use more distributed architectures. I think we need a new internet altogether, replacing the way we manage connectedness.

On a personal note, I have had the pleasure this month of spending more time with my granddaughter. Less than two years old her energy and excitement to be in our world is in abundance. She is already demanding access to my PC and smartphone and she commands Alexa and Siri to play nursery rhymes (technologies still in their infancy), in the way my daughter played with the first Apple computer and mouse.

We can be sure that as organisations find new challenges and need to make ever more informed decisions, librarians and libraries will play a vital role in the life cycle of information.

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