Challenges and Opportunities in the New Year

Article excerpt

As we look back at the stunning and historic events of 2008 and try to see some positives for 2009, most people agree that we're facing the worst economy in decades with no quick recovery in sight. The numbers reported for bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, and job cuts have been staggering.

Our newly elected president faces a monumental task in bringing the country back to an even keel. At press time, Barack Obama was hard at work on transition planning and picking his team of advisors. After his Jan. 20 inauguration, many observers expect him to move quickly to reverse some controversial policies of the Bush administration. Expect to see changes in financial guidelines, environmental policies, health insurance, and more.

Many hope the new administration will commit to a new transparency in government, following years of secrecy and

withholding of information. (Maybe we'll even get better access to those elusive Congressional Research Service reports.) At a minimum, we are likely to see a more wired and tech-savvy administration; there are even rumors of Obama doing fireside chats on YouTube. There's no doubt 2009 will be an interesting year.

Belt-Tightening

It's hard not to feel discouraged when we see the belt-tightening in the information industry and across all business sectors in reaction to the tough economic conditions: relentless cost cutting, layoffs, closures, loss of advertising, scaled-back growth plans, and more. And it's not just in the U.S.; we are experiencing a global recession and are in a period of unprecedented change.

We are likely to see cutbacks and cancellations of information products as customers' budgets are squeezed. There have been discussions on some listservs of U.S. libraries being forced to cancel subscriptions and undertaking reviews of all products and services. A trickle-down effect from federal to state to local means that libraries at all levels (academic and public) are feeling the effects on their budgets. Endowment investments of educational institutions have suffered dramatically as well.

But one of my more optimistic-minded colleagues pointed out that the tough times forced his company to re-examine how it was doing things and to implement some cost-cutting changes that should have been made earlier. "There's so much opportunity to rethink how we do things," he says. "And there's a chance to make some forward-looking and more creative decisions."

Some information providers have used the financial crisis as an opportunity to aggregate information and resources designed to aid consumers and drive traffic to their sites. For example, The New York Times offers a number of relevant "topic pages," including coverage of the credit crisis, U.S. economy, the bailout plan, and more.

The legal site FindLaw, part of Thomson Reuters, launched Financial Crisis: From Wall Street to Main Street, a special edition on its free, legal information site dedicated to delivering legal information, news, and commentary for anyone affected by the current credit crunch. While it offers the expected information about mortgages, debt collectors, retirement money, and more, it also provides some intriguing legal commentary by specialists, the latest market and business news from Reuters, and profiles of agencies overseeing the financial crisis. The most helpful section provides access to breaking legal documents as they pertain to the economy, such as the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, SEC Order Halting Short Selling in Financial Stocks, and Application for Ch. 11 Bankruptcy Protection by Lehman Bros. Holdings, Inc.

For more perspectives on the year, a look at important trends, and links to comments and forecasts from key pundits, see the January NewsLink Spotlight, "Review of the Year 2008 and Trends Watch."

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