On May 3, the Library Trustee Association of New York State held its annual trustee institute. I ran a session on the intersection of technology trends and changes in libraries. I made a presentation, titled “Creating The Library’s Future”, to get people to start thinking about this intersection.
While there is always change in information technology, I chose to highlight these clusters of trends as being most relevant to the mission of libraries. Here’s a quick summary:
- Digitization Of Written, Oral and Visual Materials: the worldwide effort to digitize paper documents as well as the increase in media that are born digital; the budding Digital Public Library of America; the end of the self-contained book which makes possible an infinite variety of mashups; the various ways that “big data” in libraries can be used
- Artificial Intelligence & Robotics: such applications as speech recognition, the Army’s artificially intelligent guide and its implications for Ask A Librarian; robotics, especially in warehouses that have implications for larger libraries
- High Quality Visual Communications: noting the importance of non-verbal communications and how we are not yet at a stage where this is a ubiquitous aspect of the Internet, but it will be; the extension with videoconferencing of the groups, literacy training, public services that libraries have always provided
- Ubiquitous Internet: the various ways that access to the Internet is escaping the limitations of the traditional PC display/keyboard/mouse where any surface can be a display or a keyboard or a mouse or you don’t even need a surface at all with arm movements or eye tracking; augmented reality
- Billions Of People Who Produce And Consume Content: the concepts of the “Pro-Sumer” and the long tail; the ways that this is opening up opportunities for authors and content creators that are not limited to the traditional publishers; the role of readers and library patrons in enhancing the traditional hierarchical catalog; the various forms of user involvement and creation at libraries in the US and abroad, including 3D printing and entrepreneurial spaces
Then I shifted to thinking about libraries in this future world. I noted the warnings have been around for a long time, with a quote about the Internet’s impact almost twenty years ago. I asked about a series of websites that seem to offer services which librarians have defined as their role.
All of this requires librarians to enhance that role to keep ahead of what are now commodity services and to think about library services as pervasive throughout the community – not confined to what goes on in the library building or even what is local.
Then taking a World Café approach, we broke up into groups focused on three questions:
- How will technology change the expectations of patrons?
- How could/should future technology trends affect the way individual libraries budget and spend their money?
- What are the organizational implications of changing technology? (including the role of the individual libraries vs. the systems vs. the RRRs vs. the State vs. the national networks)
Here are some of the possibly contradictory highlights from the discussion that followed:
- Expectations of patrons are rising because of what they exposed to, outside the library – at work and at home.
- Libraries as often lead patrons to new technologies and uses of tech, rather than the other way around
- Budgets need to shift, setting a minimum percentage for digital collections and providing staff training.
- As library activities become more varied, there may need to be more private spaces for music, videoconferencing, etc.
- The availability of resources directly from the Internet is upsetting the traditional hierarchy of the library world. So individual libraries may see alternatives to the cooperative systems or the State librarians that used to be the primary suppliers of technology.
© 2014 Norman Jacknis