Though it is difficult to believe, according to an article I just read on the Daily Ticker, it appears Congress has yet to discover email, text messaging, web meetings and other digital alternatives to snail mail, as lawmakers included a provision in its federal budget each year that requires USPS to deliver mail six days a week. All of this despite ongoing pleas to the contrary from the Postal Service.

Our Postmaster General recently warned citizens that the Postal Service was on the brink of default, and proposed cutting Saturday delivery service mailboxas a way to save $2 billion annually. Meanwhile, Congress has opted to pass legislation requiring a six-day postal service delivery schedule.  The USPS lost roughly $16 billion in 2012 (a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money), it is an independent agency, and does not receive tax payer dollars. Congress maintains legislative control over the Post Office, and has the last word on some of these very important decisions. And though Congress doesn’t fund the post office, in the event of default, tax dollars will likely provide the bailout.

There is still an important place in our modern society for the USPS, and if so allowed, the Postal Service could probably find a model that would work for them. If current law precludes cutting delivery to five days a week – can’t Congress pass a law allowing five day a week delivery?  I wonder what our first Postmaster would say. “Remember that time is money.”  “A penny saved is a penny earned.” “It’s common for Men to give pretended reasons instead of one real one.” Considering the massive ongoing losses, perhaps Ben would just shake his head and say, “Congress…Really?!”

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Postal Service To Cut Saturday Mail

  • Posted on February 6, 2013
  • by Alan Blume

On September 14, 2009, I wrote a blog entitled Going Postal. The first two sentences seemed an obvious observation at the time, “It seems pretty strange that the U.S. government still delivers mail six days a week. After all, the postal service has been running at a deficit for years, in some cases, multibillion dollar deficits.” Over three years later, I was happy to read the following headline on AP, “Postal Service To Cut Saturday Mail”. We have to start somewhere, and cutting back to 5 day delivery is a good beginning. The wheels of change turn slowly, but at least they are turning. In an age of instant electronic communication, pervasive social media, free international VOIP Skype calls, instant messaging, on demand web meetings and texting, watching a mail truck stop at nearly every house in America six times a week seems rather absurd. So the next question is, how long will it take to cut at least one more day off the USPS house to house mail delivery, and how many billions in losses, and how much wasted fuel will be racked up until that time?

 

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Your Virtual Success

IRS Goes Virtual - Your Virtual Success

Even the IRS, a bastion of bureaucracy,  has realized the future needs to be virtual as they test video-conferencing for tax audits. This seems like a very logical and more efficient method for the IRS and reminds me of a discussion I had recently with a CPA. He had expressed surprise that an IRS auditor drove an hour to visit him, to ask a few simple questions about one of his clients. These questions were readily addressed in 5 minutes (literally), and the tax man then got back in his car, and drove an hour back to his office. Had this been a web meeting or two-way video conferencing call, the tax man would have saved 2 hours and plenty of gas.

As reported by Blake Ellis on CNNMoney.com today, “In what could be an indication of things to come, the IRS launched a pilot program at the end of last year that allows taxpayers to use two-way video conferencing for assistance with tax questions and problems. The Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent watchdog arm of the IRS, is already calling for the agency to expand to virtual audits. The IRS says it needs to evaluate the success of the pilot program before making a decision. The pilot program is currently being tested in 12 locations, where taxpayers needing assistance can log into a computer enabled with video-conferencing.”

So, if your business has yet to embrace web meetings, video conferencing and webinars over seminars, you may be in danger of falling behind a true laggard, US Government Bureaucracy! When I speak with businesses who still embrace the old cold calling, canvassing, car driving, traffic jam methods of selling, I try to convey the importance of virtual business, but now I have the added ammunition that even the IRS is working on this approach. Good for them – and good for your business too.

For more information on Web Marketing go to StartUpSelling for Insurance Agency Marketing or JurisMarketing for Law Firm Web Marketing. For more information on web selling tips, go to Sell More & Work Less.

http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/05/pf/taxes/virtual-tax-audits/index.htm?source=yahoo_hosted

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US Postal Service posts $3 billion loss – warns of default

  • Posted on August 8, 2011
  • by Alan Blume

A few days ago Emily Stephenson of Reuters reported that, “The U.S. Postal Service posted a net loss of $3.1 billion in its third quarter and warned again it would default on payments to the federal government if Congress did not step in.” No surprise here, just look back to my blog on May 27th, 2010 http://startupselling.com/blogs/alanblume/tuesday%E2%80%99s-mail-%E2%80%93-should-your-tax-dollars-subsidize-direct-mail/, or May 19th of this year http://startupselling.com/blogs/alanblume/us-postal-service-reports-quarterly-loss-of-more-than-2-billion-snail-mail-issues/ where I made the easy prediction of a continuing and worsening USPS debt crisis.

Mail volume continues to drop, almost 3% from the same period last year, and will almost certainly continue to drop. Though the post office doesn’t use tax payer funds, guess what is likely to happen if the USPS defaults. If Congress does not intervene, USPS is unlikely to make their next multibillion payment (sound familiar?). So why are we still delivering mail 6 days a week? Surely 3 or 4 times a week would suffice. Even if the decision represents a slow payback, think of the fuel savings and positive impact on oil imports and the environment.

As was evidenced in the debt debacle, the government has been slow to move on these obvious issues, something all voters, both Republicans and Democrats can likely agree upon. But the USPS is painfully obvious. So here is a simple action plan to help resolve the USPS crisis:

Action items:

  1. Cut delivery to 4 days a week
  2. Stop advertising on TV, etc.
  3. Charge more for junk mail – you’re the only one delivering it (after all it is “junk mail” and environmentally irresponsible)

According to eHow, the average American receives 41 pounds of junk mail per year, of which almost half of the junk mail received annually ends up in a landfill. It costs almosts $320 million in local tax money to dispose of junk mail: http://www.ehow.com/how_5072539_stop-usps-junk-mail.html#ixzz1URp3Z0Kr. I liken the current USPS, 6 day per week delivery with junk mail as a primary cargo to the days of the Pony Express. The time has come and gone for delivery by pony, and the same holds true for the current delivery program. And, the USPS actually offeres a complimentary webinar training program to help small business learn about direct mail advertising, encouraging them to send more direct mail. Perhaps the thought here, is that even though they’re losing money, they can make it up in volume.

This three step plan would be a good start – and before anyone says this program will actually cause more problems or cost more in the short term – the short term pain will result in long term gain – and simply has to be done. Perhaps the day will come where mail will only be delivered once a week, as all government checks go electronic, most payments move to online venues and junk mail becomes a thing of the past.

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Apple Should Give Uncle Sam a Loan

  • Posted on July 29, 2011
  • by Alan Blume

According to Chris Moody of The Ticket, Apple’s quarterly financial report shows that the company now has $76.4 billion in reserve cash, while the Treasury Department only has $73.7 billion. With all of the iPods, iPads and iPhones we’ve purchased, perhaps Apple should extend Uncle Sam a loan. It’s unfortunate that our representatives, if we can call them that, have waited so long to address such an important event. Conversely, Congress seemed very interested in addressing the light bulb issue quickly, with several light bulb related votes resulting in a bill to block standards for traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more energy efficient next year. So, let there be light, incandescent that is… Regardless of party affiliation, I think everyone would agree, that this latest round of party bickering and political maneuvering around something as important as a debt default, has resulted in an amazingly poor showing. Is this the best we can do?

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On May 10th, 2011 the Associated Press reported that the Postal Service is hemorrhaging money, reporting a loss of more than $2 billion over the first three months of the year and warning it could be forced to default on federal payments. The only surprise here, is if this came as a surprise to anyone.

In May 2010 I posted a blog entitled, “Tuesday’s Mail – Should Your Tax Dollars Subsidize Direct Mail?”  It expressed concern that the US Postal Service was spending time and money in pursuit of an antiquated business. My suggestion in that blog was to immediately move to a maximum delivery schedule of five days per week.  In that blog, I displayed a photo of my mail for that Tuesday, somewhat representative of my mail on any given day. The only important mail I receive are client checks, which probably should, and certainly could, be paid electronically.

Snail Mail - An Anachronism

Snail Mail - An Anachronism

Perhaps the Postal Service is a quick and easy target for savings and an opportunity for our government to show they are serious about reducing wasteful spending. What if we reduced mail delivery to five days per week and cut down on the 200,000 USPS trucks visiting millions of households every day? Even better, can we physically deliver snail mail four days per week? Think of the fuel savings and pollution mitigation from these changes. Perhaps the labor force changes can be accomplished through attrition and reassignment. Perhaps the government can use this as one example of how the US plans to cut fuel waste by encouraging an electronic and greener mail delivery system. Certain agencies are already doing so. The Social Security Administration has already announced the end of paper checks effective on March 1, 2011 for new recipients, and on March 1, 2013 for current benefit recipients. The Treasury estimates the transition to electronic payment will save an estimated $300 million over the first five years, and $120 million each year thereafter. That’s a huge amount of snail mail, important snail mail, that will disappear off mail trucks. More importantly it’s a compelling signal indicating change is needed, and needed now.

The agency says the $2.2 billion Postal Service loss covers the period from Jan. 1 to March 31, 2011. Shall we round it and call it about $8 billion, up from about $6 billion last year? Though the Postal Service doesn’t receive tax money, the US government will become responsible if the organization defaults, or in other words, tax payers will be holding the bag. I realize the wheels of government turn slowly, but seriously, do we really need to take half a decade to decide we no longer need junk mail delivered six days per week?

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Is GE Gaming the System Or Simply Playing The Game?

  • Posted on May 6, 2011
  • by Alan Blume

The spotlight is on GE, a multibillion dollar conglomerate which markets everything from toasters to jet engines to television shows. Last year, in 2010, GE posted a gross profit of about $75 Billion and earnings (EBITDA) of approximately $27 Billion. Net income applicable to common shareholders was listed at $12 Billion, and according to many sources, paid nothing in US Federal taxes. This no way infers they did anything illegal. They did, however, take advantage of the highly complex US corporate tax code (including a myriad of loopholes), allowing a company which earns so much, to pay so little. So the question is, as a shareholder, should I be happy or sad, pro business or pro regulation? The questions are black and white, whereas the answers are often in a gray area. Yahoo Finance lists the following notables for GE’s key statistics.

GE Profits & Taxes

GE Profits & Taxes

GE 2010 Income Statement

Revenue                                       $150.21 Billion

Gross Profit:                                      75.49 Billion

EBITDA:                                             27.44 Billion

Net Income:                                      $12.32 Billion

It would seem reasonable to expect all profitable corporations to be their fair share of federal taxes, my company paid a fair sum of taxes for the year ending 2010 (and just to be clear, we didn’t net $12 Billion in profits). Of course fair is arguably an ambiguous term, some might think GE and other US corporations should be allowed to play the tax game, the ante paid dictated by the rules of the game. After all, they are merely playing the cards dealt by Congress, and are doing so legally. GE does have an obligation to shareholders to optimize profits, and it is something shareholders have a right to expect. That said, it is concerning to see a profitable mega corporation like GE engaging in extensive offshore outsourcing while simultaneously reaping federal tax breaks.

How can this convoluted situation happen? Under the tenet that everyone should pay their fair share, it would seem the culprit is the code. If the tax laws allow a company like GE to legally circumvent their ethical tax obligation, the laws must be changed, that responsibility ultimately residing with Congress. And herein resides the problem. Congress is influenced, by the influential. And mega corporations with their army of lobbyists and lawyers, and highly paid Fortune 500 executives are very influential. Can Congress find a fair balance? Can our President help execute a plan to simplify the tax code and share the tax burden? If incentives are to be created, cannot they be created to reward companies for domestic job creation and reduced offshore outsourcing (at least until such time as the US sees improved employment)?

In a recent article entitled How You Can Pull a GE on Taxes by  Brett Arends of the Wall Street Journal, (http://custom.yahoo.com/taxes/article-112468-a664918f-23b7-33c4-a769-e3191efe8f39-ge-pay-no-taxes-wsj), Arends postulates how a small corporation can emulate GE and legally pay no taxes by utilizing the same techniques that giant corporations use. It was written on April 1st, but it didn’t seem like a joke to me, as many of the tax incentives mentioned are utilized by both small corporations and giant corporations across the US. Many would argue that corporations, just like hard working people, should pay their fair share. And if GE and other giant corporations can pay little if any taxes, that’s just not happening. That’s a call to action if I ever heard one. In this writer’s humble opinion, Congress (that’s both Republicans and Democrats) needs to cut out these tax loopholes ensuring any incentives have a clear and simple correlation back to job growth. We can’t blame GE for playing the game, but we can and should change the rules of the game.

http://www.startmarketingtech.com/index.php

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We certainly like our mailman who faithfully delivers our mail, or to be politically correct perhaps we should say mail person or postal worker. Yet on most days, we should simply say why is he coming at all? Though we do receive physical checks each week, these could be delivered twice a week, or we could simply ask clients to pay via PayPal or online transfer. On occasion we receive a letter from a friend, but 99% of the time friend and family communications is now provided through email or social networking. My children’s grandparents, as they near 80 years old, have now moved to email as their primary method of communication.

Last Tuesday, our diligent and timely mail person delivered 11 mail items to our house. All of them were solicitations of one type or another including (see photo): Asian Food, Pool Supplies, Electronics, Cosmetics, Replacement Windows, Credit Card Offer, Window & Gutter Cleaning, University Fund Raising, Household Items, Religious Fund Raising and a Technical School Brochure.  All of this went into the recycling bucket, with the exception of the 20% household item coupon my wife might use. Of course, this store already has our email and could have emailed us the coupon. The University fundraising mailer makes no sense to me, as they have my email and my phone number, and email and call frequently. Even the window replacement vendor has our email as we had conversed in the past.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect the right of these companies to market their products and services, I just don’t think we should subsidize it, or expend time, money and gas to deliver it. Candidly, I’d like to see less trees, energy, cost and waste that is associated with the creation and delivery of paper in general. Direct mail, now known as snail mail, is an anachronism, a phonograph type solution in an iPod age. The post office, which has been running losses of over $1.5 Billion per quarter, recently offered the following statements in their 10-Q quarterly report.

  • “The recent losses are primarily attributable to unprecedented declines in mail volumes that began in 2008.”
  • “The Postal Service projects debt outstanding at year-end to increase over the September 30, 2009 balance by the maximum allowable $3 billion, to $13.2 billion. The $15 billion debt ceiling will become insufficient in 2011.”

Though taxpayers don’t fund the loss directly, the USPS borrows from the treasury to pay for the deficits. The net result is dollars out of taxpayer pockets. Should Congress move quickly here, after all, $1.5 billion in losses per quarter to deliver direct mail does seem a tad unreasonable? Recently, it was proposed that six day a week mail service should end. This is a ridiculous interim step. Discussions should revolve around reducing deliveries to three days a week, and we should increase the fees to direct mail marketers to encourage companies to offer more electronic marketing. There are now many choices available that are more efficient and environmentally friendly than direct mail: eMail, Social Media Marketing, SEO, and Web Seminar Marketing to mention just a few. All of these alternatives are less oil consumptive and less labor intensive than the “596,000 workers and over 218,000 vehicles” the post office uses according to Wikipedia.  Wikipedia continues on to say, the USPS “is the second-largest civilian employer in the United States (after Wal-Mart) and the operator of the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world.” That’s a lot of brick and mortar infrastructure to deliver my 11 pieces of direct marketing “junk mail”, and I doubt we want to run a $6 Billion annual deficit to accomplish this. Is there still a place for the United States Post Office? I think a scaled down version is still called for, there undoubtedly remains a need to deliver paper based documents which are still necessary and important. With the dramatic increase in virtual solutions, email, social networking and digital documents, perhaps three a day per week postal services is more reasonable and more cost effective. Will this scaled down version result in a dramatic reduction in deficits? One would certainly hope so, but at a minimum, it would result in a dramatic reduction in gas, oil and overhead. Regardless, my credo remains, go virtual, don’t go postal.

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Bank of America or Bankrupting of America?

  • Posted on May 14, 2010
  • by Alan Blume

We know a young couple living in Las Vegas; let’s call them Bob and Carol Jones. They moved there about four years ago pursuing job opportunities provided by the rapid growth in the area. As with many young couples, they wanted to buy a home (or condo) and invest in their future together. They shared an interesting story with me, an anecdotal example of the problems plaguing the real estate market in many areas including Las Vegas. They said that they used Bank of America to finance their home purchase. And if you allow me to reminisce for just a moment, I might be able to draw some interesting “then and now” parallels. About 30 years ago, in the Boston area, my wife and I decided to purchase a home. We were renting an apartment at the time and thought it would be beneficial to invest in a home, thereby investing in our future. Sadly, that’s where the similarity with these stories seems to end.

Our local bank required that we put 20% down, did a thorough check of our finances, a complete job validation and review, interviewed us as prospective mortgagees, procured a comprehensive property appraisal (and strongly suggested we do one too), and charged an interest rate befitting both the time and our first time buyer status, a whopping 13% on a traditional 30 year mortgage. We were required to pay principal, mortgage insurance, interest and taxes for each payment, and had to go through extra hurdles to ensure we didn’t need a cosigner. It seemed very challenging for a young couple to buy a home, our first home was purchased for around $100,000; we were given much scrutiny before the local bank forked over the $80,000 for our mortgage. How did we get the $20,000 down payment? Even though we both worked full time, we lived on one paycheck and saved the other, banking it every two weeks for several years until we had sufficient funds for a down payment. We were young and just out of college, so the sacrifices didn’t seem overly significant at that time in our lives, they included things like used cars, inexpensive home cooked meals, limited vacations, and a refrain from restaurant dining.

Now let’s fast forward to the young Las Vegas couple, circa 2006. Why save for a down payment when Bank of America will approve your loan with nothing down, that’s right, according to Bob and Carol, they paid zip, zero, nada. And why eat macaroni and cheese when Bank of America will float you a 40 year mortgage, no worries for today, your property will increase in value, so why not dine out on a steak and lobster dinner? You can do whatever you want right now! How long have you been in your jobs? You’ve just arrived, been here only a few days? Actually your wife doesn’t have a job yet but you said she will have one prior to the close date? Just have her bring a letter from her new employer and we’ll accept that as proof of employment at the closing! And speaking of the closing, we’ll float you the $160,000 mortgage over 40 years for your one bedroom condo, don’t worry – be happy.

Perhaps you might think this story is an exaggeration. Sadly, our source is legitimate, and they swear this is a completely true story. Thirty years ago, I had job tenure of about two years, and the bank expressed serious concern about my modest employment record at the time. Our Las Vegas couple, first time buyers Bob and Carol, had barely arrived in Vegas, and Carol had only been there a few days when she put pen to paper for her condo. It was truly challenging for us to qualify for a mortgage, yet to us, it sounds like Bank of America was throwing money at Bob and Carol. So, what happened? We sold our house near Boston a couple of years later for a good profit, bought another home with a 15 year mortgage and paid it off. Bob and Carol’s condo value started dropping like a rock thrown over the Hoover Dam, immediately after closing, and they are now severely underwater (meaning they owe more than their house is worth). That’s right, their $160,000 condo would be lucky to fetch $70,000 on today’s market, a mere four years later. It could be a decade or two before they are above water. And because of all the speculation and fancy lending practices, some experts estimate that today, up to 80% of all Las Vegas homeowners are now underwater (particularly ironic since some say Lake Meade could dry up in the next fifteen years). Listen to these somber statements from a Las Vegas Sun article By Buck Wargo, Friday, Aug 7, 2009.

“Las Vegas is at greater risk than other cities that its homeowners will walk away from their mortgages even though they could afford them, according to a study by two Chicago universities.”

“The median price of homes sold in Las Vegas has fallen more than 50 percent since June 2006, and in its most recent study zillow.com said 67 percent of Las Vegas homeowners are underwater — when the amount owed exceeds the home’s current value — and more than 80 percent of the homes bought from 2005 to 2007 are underwater.”

Are Bob and Carol an unusual case? Are they merely a spurious statistic, an anomaly in the general lending landscape that happened in Las Vegas? Based on the foreclosure rates and negative property values, they would seem to be good example of what happened, not an exception to the rule. Shall we hold Bank of America solely responsible for this plight? Surely other banks were practicing similar practices, and buyers must accept responsibility too. But in this case, our story is simply about this particular loan to Bob and Carol from BOA. In hindsight, which party is most responsible here in the Bob, Carol and BOA mortgage debacle and how do we avoid making the same mistakes again? Certainly we all must take responsibility for our actions, after all, it is buyer beware. However, in my opinion, most of the blame, in fact almost all of the blame belongs to Bank of America. It is they who are the experienced institution of lending; it is they who have the resources, the knowledge, the background, and the experience in these matters. It is they who should be safeguarding their shareholder value by loaning responsibly and intelligently. They should know better than to be lending out huge mortgages with nothing down to young couples with a limited employment tenure (sounds like a TV infomercial doesn’t it). They are the ones who should be exercising restraint and fiscally responsible judgment, and subsequently I blame BOA for 99.9% of this issue and for requiring $45 Billion in TARP money (from me and you) to bail them out. Three decades ago, in a town north of Boston, it took us about four months to qualify for a mortgage. It took Bob and Carol a couple of weeks. I realize times change, but this hardly seems like a change for the better.

When I look through my rear view mirror, it seems that there was rampant speculation and a general lack of responsibility. It seems like giant financial institutions were playing fast and loose with shareholder money. There were costly bailouts and record foreclosures. And there are now many young, first time buyers, like Bob and Carol, thinking about walking away from an untenable situation, massive mortgages, properties too small to start a family, with property values so severely underwater that they have no hope of moving on with their lives. Bob and Carol, like many other property owners are considering a walk away, handing over their mortgage and dealing with the credit related or bankruptcy related fallout that would subsequently follow. In a way, this is not surprising, with nothing down and essentially no principal paid off (the first four years on a 40 year mortgage is almost zero principal) Bob and Carol effectively, if not pragmatically, became renters, and BOA became the owners, not a good formula for success. Perhaps a few suggestions are in order for both parties here:

Thoughts for Bob & Carol
• If it seems too good to be true – it probably is – even if the loan is coming from a seemingly reputable source
• Beware of cycles – particularly with real estate and the stock market
• Take your time and seek advice on large purchases

Thoughts for Bank of America
• Zero down mortgages to condo buyers who were employed a few days or months – is this smart lending?
• Forty year mortgages in a past peak (bubble) real estate market? Is that sound lending?
• 45 Billion in TARP funds needed because of your seemingly stupid and shoddy lending practices? And American tax payers have to bail you out because of the lending practices described above? You need to exercise more restraint and better judgment.

Lastly, a few suggestions for a new Bank of America (BOA) company name:
• Bankrupting of America (and the acronym still works) BOA
• Bank Un-American (shows how a company can embrace capitalism yet the results can still be un-American at the same time) BUA
• Bank of Dumb Lending in America (OK, it’s long, but it is accurate) BDLA

If any of you have similar stories – or simply a different perspective, please feel free to comment. For all of those who do not favor Wall Street/Banking regulations – please reread this article, particularly the part about Bob & Carol, arriving in Las Vegas a few days/weeks before being given a $160,000, zero payment down, 40 year mortgage, on a one bedroom condo, after the market had already peaked.

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Libraries Today – “Liseums” Tomorrow

  • Posted on May 8, 2010
  • by Alan Blume

Town libraries house tens of thousands of books, in relatively convenient locations not far from my home or yours. The New York Public Library system offers about 60 million items (books, videotapes, maps, etc.), over 20 million of these are books. That’s a lot of items which requires a substantial brick and mortar infrastructure and associated staff (counting inventory must be a killer!). According to Wikipedia, “Due to the current 2009 economic crisis, NYPL is facing a $23.2 million funding cut when the new fiscal year begins July 1. This will result in the expected elimination of 465 jobs, and in sharply scaled back branch operating hours.” That’s what happens when your budget exceeds $300 million dollars each year and the city and state government is running at a deficit.

But there is a solution. As all of this printed material and video morphs to digital, why would we need these items to reside in a central location? Does the model make sense anymore? Will continued pressure on government to reduce expenses change the way we think about and use libraries? Are libraries, like the US Post Office, relics of a bygone era that need to be completely reassessed and modernized?

I think libraries will need to transform themselves to remain useful and affordable. Perhaps they will have a few dozen (or even a few hundred) workstations with PCs for people who need to find an online resource, though wireless reading devices with Internet connectivity may become so cheap in the future that literally everyone in a highly developed country will have one. Librarians are likely to become virtual librarians, with a touch of a button they appear on your screen allowing for an instant video chat (that’s already available on line with many major libraries). Surely they will not be needed to sort and stack books, to send out late notices, to collect late fees and organize used book sales. Perhaps libraries will house old books no longer in print, maps and plans that are difficult to digitize, and local historical artifacts for the town, city or region. Some day in the very near future, libraries may become a combination of a library and local museum. I’ll call them “Liseums”. Liseums would integrate local museums with library functions, combining town (or city) historical society museums with libraries, reducing brick and mortar overhead and the associated costs.

Libraries must change to become practical in the future. They may become nationally centralized and online database centric. While researching my recent book, I stopped by my local library to ask a librarian a question. I met Jen in the reference section, and she was very helpful. She subsequently e-mailed me some articles pertaining to regional and national commuting statistics. Of course, if my local (or regional) library was more of an online resource, I could have accomplished the same thing faster and more efficiently through a video chat, web meeting or instant messaging session. In the very near future, I would hope to see my Kindle support online web meetings, Skype type video calling, and library download functionality. I can already download many classic books for free, why not download any book from a library for free (yes I realize that will then create author royalty concerns – but that’s a subject for another day)? Regardless of your perspective on this, I suggest you look for a Liseum near you, sometime in the very near future.

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