LITA Top Technology Trends ALA 2011

The LITA Top Technology Trends Panel consisted of five participants working in various aspects of library technology.  Each of the panelists was asked to identify two important or emerging technology trends relevant to libraries, and to comment as to whether such trends were imminent or still developing in the digital environment.

Nina McHale, Assistant Professor and Web Librarian from Auraria University in Colorado, kicked off the session by identifying Drupal as a current, open-source software package that offers institutions the potential to create and streamline dynamic websites. For the developer, the Drupal community supports an increasing number of core and user-contributed modules. Drupal’s flexibility allows for the application of design standards across web pages, saving the content creator from having to master HTML and CSS, resulting in a consistently thematic look-and-feel across disparate systems and interconnected web pages. Many libraries have embraced Drupal’s lightweight integration capabilities to socially transform their proprietary ILS systems into OPACs with social mechanics built-in (SOPACs.)

McHale’s second tech trend recognized the growth in efforts towards true web accessibility of electronic resources. She cited the recent release of standards such as the EPUB3 format and the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) Form as examples of how service providers are recognizing the need for standards when distributing and collecting information digitally, especially in light of patrons with disabilities. She encouraged information resource providers and educators to work with database vendors to make the resources more accessible to all users of the web.

Clifford Lynch, Director of the Coalition for Networked Information, noted the rise of mobile applications as something very relevant to information providers today. At this time, the debate between mobile web services and mobile applications has not yet been settled. However, the rise of apps in the marketplace satisfies the tastes of several types of users, and so it must be responded to. Mobile application development has its own intrinsic challenges including platform-specific architecture, accessibility, and UX design. Product designers should consider how the source data which powers the app is stored and modeled in order to guarantee its future scalability, versus locking it entirely within the confines of the application.

Lynch’s second trend focused on imaging, more specifically computational imaging. Years of research and development in image manipulation have led to analytic systems with incredibly sophisticated functionality.  Images are no longer fixed pieces of information. They can be interacted with like research datasets. A project like LYTRO at Stanford University allows photographs to be focused after they’re taken. These new technological processes are analogous to the some of the spatial and analytical research methods commonly used by the geospatial community.

Monique Szendze, Director of Information Technology for the Douglas County Public Library in Colorado, identified mobile marketing as a currently existing trend that libraries should leverage to better expose their services to users. Its proven success in the retail industry indicates that mobile marketing is not a fad and should be part of the framework for any successful business. Users tethered to the broadband access that now comes free in most libraries, could be shown ads for services or products such as eBooks. Furthermore, mobile marketing is actionable, user-driven, and currently very grant-friendly.

Social reading was the second technology trend mentioned by Szendze as a phenomenon that libraries should definitely be paying attention now. The lines between electronic book and the web are becoming indistinguishable for some users. While this may be problematic for authors, publishers and libraries, users increasingly access content from any given number of sources, so we should be sensitive to those environments and try to embrace them.

Jennifer Wright, Assistant Chief for Materials Management at the Free Library of Philadelphia, also elaborated on the social reading trend as one imminently relevant to libraries. Sites such as Goodreads, and LibraryThing, and applications like Kobo, allow users to share notes, comments, and statistics on what they’ve read or how fast they’ve read it. Goodreads now allows authors to upload and sell their content directly from the site.

Wright’s second tech trend predicted the death of the mouse as an input device.  Largely due to the rise of tablets hitting the market, gestural input can often be more intuitive, requiring less hand eye coordination and user training to interact with the web. The rise in devices using OCR or cameras as input devices increases the capability for users to interact with an augmented reality in a way that is becoming more and more natural to their information- seeking habits.

Lorcan Dempsey, Vice President of Research at OCLC, mentioned that managing down print collections is an issue most libraries must address in the near future. Most institutions have struggled in some way with the implications of moving collections off site. Twenty-first century library spaces are designed for community learning spaces, not managing print collections. Dempsey predicted a rise in ‘collective collecting’ among partnered libraries in order to provide access to print materials.  The best practice and policy issues surrounding these transitions are in many ways, still being worked out. Also noted were the rise of hubs, such as the HathiTrust, as bases for collecting, distributing and preserving materials that can be universally distributed when permitted by copyright.

As always, the tech trend panel was informative, enlightening and highly valuable to the discourse in library applications of technology.

About Kim Durante

Metadata Analyst, Stanford University
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One Response to LITA Top Technology Trends ALA 2011

  1. Pingback: “Everything we do is pervaded by technology”: the LITA Tech Trends panel « Jenny Arch

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