Stakeholders - US
U.S. Stakeholders in the Information Age
This, more than any other time in the history of the world, is an era where information is the most highly prized and highly valued commmodity in society. It is the "Age of Information," and in the U.S., where principles of democracy and capitalism are paramount, information possession, transfer rights, access, use, restrictions, and censorship have become key issues in society at large, and have made the library the major arena--the battleground--where key stakeholders vie for their agendas and their issues among competing interests. Fortunately, American society is a resilient one and thrives on the competing and symbolic relationships and tensions that result from the interchange of democracy and capitalism through intellectual and scholarly debate. The key stakeholders in the information age are four: business and industry; government; information producers, disseminators, transmitters, and telecommunicators; and American citizens and those organizations who represent their interests. Each have their own interests, and those interests either conflict with and are damaging to other stakeholder groups, or, they are compatible and even enhance them.
Stakeholder Group 1: Business and Industry
Driven by the profit motive, businesses and industries are frequently the inventors of new technologies, new services, and new products which are valuable and useful to other stakeholders. However, some instances arise where the ideology behind laissez faire is directly opposed to competing ideologies of other stakeholders. From a governmental perspective, the profit motive of the business and industry stakeholder group often must be curtailed. Laws have arisen to preserve the rights of individuals when profit can harm individuals' and organizations' rights which are protected under law. One example includes respecting copyright holders' rights (where the individual who produced the item has ownership rights to his or her creative product) so that "bootleggers" can not make money from their creative work. In this case, the law is more compatible with the main goal of promoting creativity and originality that leads to invention and marketable products, or the interests of information producers, disseminators, transmitters, and telecommunicators. Business and industry also led to the invention of the printing press, as a second example, which led to the promulgation of literary works by vastly increasing output and the ability to create multiple copies cheaply. This particular aspect benefitted the whole of society, the last group, because it made works available en masse to all levels of society, and not just the elite. When works became widely available, this had the impact of increasing literacy, which supposedly aided in the production of a more informed public capable of sustaining the principles of democracy and the ideals of American government.
Stakeholder Group 2: Government
As mentioned previously, democratic ideals can be fostered with the use of technology created via business and industry. However, government often clashes with business interests, particularly on the idea of protecting the rights of all individuals to access information regardless of their economic standing. Richard Rubin, in his Foundations of Library and Information Science (2004), particularly points out the dangers of dividing the information marketplace into the "haves" and the "have nots"; when information is viewed as a commodity, he says, it directly impinges upon the democratic principle that "universal and equal access" is a fundamental right. As information becomes available in electronic formats, (a boon right now), this gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" has come to be called the digital divide. The government works to fund programs in libraries and libraries themselves to provide equal access. Interestingly, the individuals who have profited the most from business and industry have contributed immensely to the idea of equal access. Carnegie, Andrew, 1835-1919, a major benefactor, contributed a vast amount of money in a philanthropic effort to build libraries and to promote the locally-controlled public library system. The legislative part of government makes laws. Perhaps more than any other stakeholder group, business and industry have the funds available to make their issues "important" to politicians through lobbying efforts. This includes information providers and disseminators who are, in this case, considered to be part of the the business group (or close enough in their aims to be closely compatible). An example of late is the recording industry that has worked to stop companies like Napster from providing music for free on the internet. In this case, even the companies stakeholder group has conflicts within its own group, or "infighting". This is true of other stakeholders as well; the complexity is deeper than just competing interests amongst stakeholders. Dissention also occurs within each stakeholder group.
Stakeholder Group 3: Information Producers, Disseminators, Transmitters, and Telecommunicators
One key issue of the information producers' stakeholder group is freedom of expression and intellectual inquiry. In order for this group to realize its potential, the government must protect their First Amendment rights; their rights for free speech and intellectual freedom. In some cases today government rulings have sided against free speech and for the limitation of that right, especially regarding materials online that could affect children, for example, the CIPA case. Generally, business facilitates information producers by disseminating a creative product to the marketplace, enabling a lifestyle for the stakeholders, through income generated by the sale of their product, a process which is conducive to the continuation of their profession. However, there are some instances where works are market-driven and not creator-driven. Information producers and diseminators are essential for the transfer of ideas to the people. People, in turn, directly benefit by learning new ideas and techniques and are also entertained by them.
Stakeholder Group 4: American Citizens and Organizations that Represent Their Interests
Citizens have unique interests that are not represented fully by the other stakeholder groups, so their needs deserve individual attention. These include privacy and free access to information. For example, library patrons deserve the right to look at whatever materials they want and to be able to do so without the scrutiny of others, including the government. This is one of the ideals expressed by the American Library Association, or ALA. Many people, however, might view patron reading activity as a commodity. Businesses could use these statistics to market specifically to the individual by sending mailings, and other forms of advertisements, if they knew each person's interests and reading habits. The government, especially under the USA Patriot Act, is concerned people might have access to information that could violate national security in the wrong hands.
Information has become a commodity that is desirable by many stakeholders, each with their own agendas. When these agendas intersect, which they inevitably will, sometimes the result is conflict and sometimes it is cooperation. The U.S. democratic society has flourished under such debate, and the fact that it is a society where such debates are possible is wonderfully unique.