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Problems

After many years of neglect, in former socialist countries the library and information sector has deficiencies which are now creating problems during the current transition. Dynamic and complex socioeconomic and technological changes have found many librarians and information professionals unprepared to react fast, adapt and take advantage of the developments in their field. Most of them are still working in the traditional manner, focusing mainly on classic library routines. There are no cost/benefit analyses of these processes and thus it is impossible to evaluate their operations and their impact on the parent organization. With librarians often lacking the appropriate academic and professional background, their status is relatively low, exacerbating the situation.

Due to lack of funding, slow action and reaction, and insufficient professional knowledge the library/information sector in countries in transition has lagged behind world developments in the field. Newly created library and information systems are often outdated by the time they are developed and implemented. It takes courage to radically cut and abandon existing inefficient practices. This then leads to situations in which scarce funds and precious time are wasted in fruitless discussions and endeavors.

The poor financial support and lack of education and research in the field have made it difficult for professionals at all levels to conceptualize meaningful national and corporate information policies, devise financial solutions and introduce incentives, stimulation or subsidies where necessary for the development of the library and information sector.

Well-articulated information policies are lacking both at the macro and micro levels. Information policies on the national level are needed to define a framework for cooperation among the various agents in the information infrastructure of the country and also to ensure wider access to external (international) sources of information as well as international access to national information sources (i.e., to present them in the international information systems and networks).

At the micro level, organizations in these countries need information policies that will ensure consideration of all the factors relevant to the acquisition, flow and use of information, the development of strategic plans for information activities and appropriate information resources management.

One of the greatest and for all sectors general problems is the lack of capital. This perpetuates chronic underinvestment in the information infrastructure. Budgeting and other financial issues in the information sector have been difficult in industrialized countries and better organized economies. The lack of capital and poor market mechanisms render these issues even more difficult in countries with transition economies.

The weak demand for information services in the previous economic systems has necessarily led to non-existent or underdeveloped markets of information services and products. Services are scattered and uncoordinated. The marketing of information services is still generally poor. Even where fairly good information services exist, they are not well known and are not easily available to potential users from the national and international communities, though the World Wide Web possibilities are changing the situation.

The manpower position is the most crucial. For many years there was practically no regular professional education and training. Without professional education, in particular at the postgraduate level, there were very few research projects, surveys or empirical studies that could have clarified the problems in the library/information sector and brought about solutions.

Keeping pace with the unprecedented speed of developments in the area of information and telecommunications directly affecting information and library work has been a traumatic experience even for information professionals in industrialized countries that have undergone a more or less continuous development in the field. For information professionals in countries in transition this has been an even greater problem.

Many information professionals in countries in transition lose confidence when faced with a general lack of understanding of their vocation, lack of opportunities for regular and continuous professional training, and the imperative to keep abreast with the rapid development of information and telecommunication technology.

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