Saturday, 20th June 2009
Tim Buckley Owen
Information professionals are depending increasingly on free sources to cope with dramatically reduced or eliminated budgets – but, perhaps surprisingly, staffing remains generally stable. These are among the key findings of a survey carried out by Free Pint Ltd for J J Keller & Associates, the leading North American provider of regulatory compliance information on human resources, safety and transportation issues.
Launched at the Special Libraries Association conference in Washington DC, the free white paper, Economic Impact: How Information Professionals are Coping with Change (http://digbig.com/4yyee), analysed responses from around 300 of the 22,000 subscribers to Free Pint’s Resourceshelf newsletter (http://www.resourceshelf.com/). It found that staff still felt thinly stretched despite the comparatively stable staffing situation – either because of staff cuts in the past or because they were having to respond to an ever wider range of requests.
They’re rising to this challenge by helping their users become more self-sufficient in their information needs, the white paper reports. And they’re making the most of whatever resources they are able to invest in – measuring usage, dropping little-used resources and leveraging their usage of aggregators and à-la-carte pricing options – to get just what they need and no more.
They’re also resorting to some pretty ingenious ways of making their squeezed budgets go further – shifting the cost of particular resources directly to the budgets of the clients who need them, for example, or aligning a cost with a mission-critical area of the business, such as research & development.
But it’s the free stuff that’s really tiding them over; exploiting that is by far their most important tactic and, as the white paper observes, there’s more and more of it to be found. However, it adds, ‘the tradeoff may be in staff time finding and vetting these resources, and managing the risk involved if and when a free resource is no longer available’.
Absolutely right. With content providers’ continuing failure to make a success of a purely advertising funded model, the future of some free services – news for example – must be in doubt (see for instance http://www.vivavip.com/go/e19910).
Meanwhile, though, leveraging free sources effectively does depend on being able to search them properly – and there’s some evidence to suggest that even professional information staff may be falling short on this at the moment. According to a new survey from information consultant Outsell, professionals expecting to find what they need on the web come up short an ‘unprecedented’ 36% of the time (http://digbig.com/4yyed).
This year’s Business Information Resources Survey also found that traditional information discovery skills were increasingly being recognised as a key priority (http://www.vivavip.com/go/e16627). Brushing up your searching skills could be the most cost-effective decision you take this year.
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