*Editor’s note: All librarian names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Alex* can pinpoint the day she knew she was done with library work. “I was doing a lot of extra emotional support for people who didn’t have anybody else,” says the public librarian, who is disabled and has been working near a large Midwestern city for almost 20 years.
She says the last two years have been particularly difficult. “There was a day when I realized nothing was ever enough,” says Alex, who is in the process of leaving the field. “They always asked for more. I was so worn down by it all.”
The burnout began earlier for Chris. “Even before the pandemic started, I’d been feeling increasingly ambivalent,” says the Midwest-based academic librarian who left her associate director position in fall 2021.
“Then we had the pandemic, which required libraries to make a ton of changes. I wanted to work with my community, and I didn’t have any energy for that.”
Events of the last year have reshaped the library technology industry.
Previous rounds of acquisitions pale in comparison to the acquisition of ProQuest by Clarivate, which has propelled the leading library technology provider into the broader commercial sector of scholarly communications.
This deal signals that the gap in size among vendors is widening, as ProQuest businesses Ex Libris and Innovative Interfaces also join Clarivate.
The emergence of such a large business at the top of the industry has accelerated consolidation among mid-level players that aim to increase scale and efficiency to remain competitive. This was a banner year for consolidation of midsize competitors, with more acquisitions than any prior year.
These deals raise concerns about weakened competition, but they may also enable new industry dynamics that will spark innovation and synergy within the broader research and education landscape. Small companies with visions for innovation often lack the resources to deliver, which larger companies can provide. Increased investor and stockholder involvement, however, translates into pressure to maximize profits and growth. The way these competing dynamics play out has important implications for libraries.