Strategery!Roy Tennant has written a very cheeky, open letter to ILS vendors over at tech essence warning them that, in the face of growing competition from the open source sector, they ought to be abandoning their business-as-usual tact.

I’ll tell you, I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be a vendor right now.

But then again, what if libraries received an open letter warning against the same complacency that plagues our ILS vendors? Remember this open letter in the Lawrence Journal World?

What if our users decided that the $80-$100 allocated to the library from their property taxes would personally serve them better if it were spent on a Netflix subscription? After all, DVDs constitute the largest percentage of circulated items at our library. Yet, compared to Netflix, our selection is lousy, availability is a joke, and distribution methods? Ha. That’s just one example of many instances where our users are not getting the ROI they may be looking for.

The reality is that public libraries are not in a position to compete with power houses like Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes. We’re even getting our hat handed to us by the pirate movie and MP3 scene. So when I read Roy’s letter, I thought, yes he’s dead-on, but that pendulum swings right back at us. Roy sums up some of the advice given by a Business Week article about the Eastman Kodak company:

  • Watch for treacherous shifts
  • Get your best people behind the program
  • Give your new initiatives room to breathe
  • Make painful breaks with the past
  • Don’t confuse what your company does with how it does it

Sage advice. We ought to take it. I’m personally much less concerned about the fate of our vendors. They’ve made their bed, and we no longer have to sleep in it with them.

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