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Trends! Trends! Trends!

At ALA Midwinter in Seattle, once again I will sit up on a panel with a group of people I consider smarter than I am, and bluff my way through a discussion about Top Technology Trends. (It’s Sunday, 8–10 a.m. , FAIR Spanish Ballroom, for those who love Sunday morning events.)

But it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t solicit trends from YOU, gentle readers… which I generally do by tossing some of my own ideas onto the page and then allowing you to point out all the obvious trends I’m missing or wherever else I’ve gone astray.

What is a trend, anyway? When I look up the word in Google, I see the term “direction” used frequently in its definitions. So a trend pushes us somewhere… whether we want to go there or not.

This is what I see, at least in North America in early 2007. This year I deliberately chose very simple, broad strokes. Some of my observations may sound over-obvious, but I include them because I feel they are important to ponder when we consider technology in libraries.

People increasingly rely on and trust the web for news and information.

It is increasingly difficult to function without email, and even easier to function with it.

Many more people have IM than you might think.

The bookstore is going away. (That makes me sad, and yet I buy from Amazon, too.)

The film camera is an anachronism.

Wifi is an assumption in many settings.

Everyone has a cell phone. O.k., only 203 million Americans have cell phones, and only 2 out of 3 global citizens. Most of those citizens are teenagers and college students, for whom the cell phone must be attached to one ear for at least 80 percent of the waking day, as far as I can tell from observation.

It is now pretty much a given that anything you do in a public setting can potentially be blogged, podcast, or uploaded to YouTube in a matter of minutes. (Privacy is increasingly porous.)

Library vendors’ customers (that would be us) are expecting more for their users, and asking harder questions.

O.k., predictions–want one? Evergreen, the open source ILS, will reach a tipping point in 2007–just enough new customers to put it on the brink of being to the ILS what Apache has become for web servers: the common-sense choice.

Posted on this day, other years:

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  1. metaphorical wrote:

    I know nothing about ILS, library science, or library technology (and I’m on my third beer), but I predict your prediction will come up short. Asterisk, the open-source IP-PBX system, will have a great year (heck, it’s already having a great year) but it’s not going to have an Apache year. Apache is a unique phenomenon that every major open-source initiative aspires to and none will ever achieve.

    Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 10:36 pm | Permalink
  2. Old Yorkie wrote:

    I use Amazon too; I occasionally lament the loss of small, privately-owned bookshops. But not, in some cases, their inefficiency… But look at the other side of the coin. Thanks to the web and organisations like Biblio and AbeBooks we suddenly have access to hundreds of thousands of world-wide second hand bookshops we would not normally see. I just found The Complete Letters of Oscar Wild, edited by Rupert Hart Davis, at a price suspiciously like that (in monetary terms, if not in value terms) of the 1970s publication price. Delivered in three days too! Try that at your neighbourhood bookstore, who probably won’t be interested unless they can order it as a new book.

    Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  3. Well since my overly ambitious predictions for last year were *way* off, I’m going to try to aim for some more obvious observations.

    1) Libraries are going to continue to split into two zones: an active and loud zone on the first floor filled with people on computers and working in groups and a quiet zone where the books are are and people can sit and read alone. Pity the libraries that are single-story which makes this type of delineation close to impossible.

    2) Judging by the world’s lack of excitement over Microsoft’s Vista operation system and by my own growing use of products Flickr, Google Calendar and 37 Signals’ Backpack, I’m making a hunch that there will be a growing migration from single-PC software to web based applications.

    3) Someone is going to produce personal digital library software that is as functional and as easy to use as Flickr. Ok, that’s not so much as a prediction as a hope. There will still be hope in 2007.

    Thanks for this Karen!

    Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 9:54 am | Permalink
  4. Rob Darrow wrote:

    Two trends others have discussed include:
    1. Increase in social networking in teens (see report:
    2. End of typical school and increase in use of online and virtual learning (see:

    To me, it is not just the trends, but how we, in libraries, respond to them. We know blogging has taken off and increasing, but how have school and public libraries responded? Some, pretty well (developing MySpace pages, etc), but others have barely heard the word. We read that Second Life is taking off and there is an “info island” in it, but how does the library fit into this? The real question I would love to hear your panel answer is: what are some examples of how libraries are responding to these trends and/or ideas of how can libraries can respond to these trends?

    And overall, I wonder how libraries and librarians respond to public comments such as this one:

    Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  5. The digital divide is getting wider. A few years ago, every computer-literate person was also book-literate. It looks like “Generation Next” (as Pew puts it) is much more comfortable with on-line media than with ink on dead trees. To serve them at all, libraries must be on-line.

    I seriously doubt that we’ll see the “end of typical school” (Rob Darrow’s comment). I don’t see anything that is making face-to-face communication less effective. It has been, and will remain, the best. On-line DIY learning is replacing book learning, no doubt.

    Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 9:00 pm | Permalink
  6. kgs wrote:

    All, thanks. Keep those cards and letters coming. Rob, I agree, you have stated the hard questions.

    Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 11:45 pm | Permalink
  7. Robin wrote:

    I read the “Who needs books?” blog post Rob cites as satirical, “Jon Swift” being no small clue. Am I wrong? Not that there aren’t people out there who would write something similar tongue-out-of-cheek… The commenters seem to be split on whether they read it literally or as satire.

    As mentioned, the push to web-based applications has huge potential, cross-pollinating with the desire to access everything from anywhere anytime on my smartphone. What does a library become then? Is the library’s role as a kind of club, providing benefits to its “members”? As a broker, mediating between the users affiliated with it and the commercial content sector? This sense of “library as affiliation”, independent of physical space, is a different vision than the library as place/meeting rooms/coffee shop/adult ed/community center, etc. There’s room for the library to grow both ways — it’s a matter of determining where the public needs value added to information discovery, delivery, use, and (though they don’t realize it) preservation.

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  8. metaphorical wrote:

    Mita, I’d expect libraries to see web-based apps used a lot, to store a partial or draft document (/blog entry, e-mail message, etc.) to be completed at home or at the next library visit. That has nothing to do with the success or popularity of Vista.

    As for your #3, what about LibraryThing?

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 2:17 pm | Permalink
  9. I blogged your trend notes, Karen.. and provided a rough response on the bookstore trend you project.. “I’m not sure about the bookstore one though; just as we’ll transition to a “different library” in responses to technology and other factors, I think bookstores will survive in the near-term, but they will look and feel “different” than we’ve come to know (and for one, love)…”

    As I suggested, I *hope* you are wrong, or is it like “You’ve Got Mail” and we’ll have only the Jolly Green Corporate Bookstore of the future all around us?

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  10. Rob Darrow wrote:

    It will be interesting to hear what the overall panel will say. Looking forward to hearing your report.

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 6:58 pm | Permalink
  11. kgs wrote:

    MMMMMM, yum, LibraryThing. I love it. I haven’t spent enough time there, and honestly, I miss it!

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 7:44 pm | Permalink
  12. Personally, I’m hoping for something more than books-only LibraryThing. Since I can’t bring myself to use the word ‘learning-object’, I guess I have to say that I’m waiting for something that brings documents (text, photographs, presentations) out of our collective My Documents folders and into the shareable world of Web 2.0.

    BTW, Sara Houghton describes the “move to web-based everything” much better than I did at the LITA blog.

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 8:38 pm | Permalink
  13. Alane wrote:

    I think we actually live in a vastly different world…probably “tipped” in about 2000 and nothing to do with Y2K. Think about doing without the web, or Google. It’s hard, isn’t it? Look way, way above predictions about specific formats or professions and trends suggest we are a fundamentally different people than we were in 1989. Goodbye age of the individual. Hello age of the collective hive mind.

    Friday, January 12, 2007 at 9:20 pm | Permalink
  14. K.G. Schneider wrote:

    Sarah’s trends are excellent, and that’s not mere uncritical me-tooism, it’s admiration for her ability to have a bird’s-eye view.

    Alane, it would be fun to quibble the date for that tip, though I suspect you’re right.

    Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 5:20 am | Permalink
  15. Excellent observation of trends. This is not a trend, but I’d just like to comment that at many urban libraries, including the one in which I work, people are lined up both to check out books and to use computers (well, that’s what administrators say, including me, though I think it would be more accurate to say they’re using bandwith). That is, there is still clearly a desire and need for both pre-digital and digital “stuff” (I choose that word carefully, as people are not really, as best I can tell, looking for “information” or “recreation” or “culture”; instead, they’re looking for a sort of mix of all of that, with “friendship” mixed in.)

    I think there are a LOT of librarians nowadays who don’t use libraries. The more true this becomes, the more concerned I am about libraries and the assumptions librarians are making. If the library doesn’t work for you, why do you think it will keep working for others? Myself, I do use the library, but really almost just to see if it’s still working!

    Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 11:37 pm | Permalink
  16. art wrote:

    I wonder if 2007 will be a year of unsettling numbers. What happens when the private equity funders in the ILS marketplace weigh in on the pricing for 2008 and the biggest item on the tech budget goes through the roof? What will investments in federated searching and other “one search to rule them all” solutions mean if the statistics start showing Google Scholar as the preferred campus entry point to licensed content? What if preemptive licensing for a lot of content doesn’t make sense anymore when the numbers are crunched? I think Dale’s point about the assumptions being made is really key, the cost-benefit analysis will show many winners in the slate of library services, but there could be some serious math waiting to be tackled in the coming year.

    Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 12:49 am | Permalink
  17. kgs wrote:

    Actually, I would be extremely surprised if “preemptive licensing for a lot of content” could be financially justified in most cases. We have wonderful content in slightly dubious packages that is horrifically undermarketed.

    Maybe Google Scholar should be the de facto preferred campus entry point and we should reorient our investments of time and money around that to ensure it meets our needs. Yes, no?

    On the ILS consolidation, I cannot imagine prices going down or products rapidly improving. With that in mind, a preemptive (word of the day!) strike with open source ILS software may be prudent. I mean, why DO we spend a lot on ILS software if at least one OSS product that hits all the high marks of functionality is available, and as The Lorcan has pointed out on his blog, at least two companies are offering paid support?

    Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 8:34 am | Permalink
  18. art wrote:

    Marketing definitely comes up for fostering better use of licensed resources, but I would like to see some strong measures for response time and familiarity. Google is fast and familiar, and despite many other factors that put Google in a negative light, sometimes I think we are kidding ourselves about what users put a premium on. Despite this, I don’t think we need to put all of our eggs in a Google basket, but it is silly not to do some hard thinking about maximizing the space that our users are already in. The University of Texas at Austin puts a link to Google Scholar on the front page, if our overriding concern is connecting users to content, then I would say their decision making is rock solid.

    I am so biased on the OSS question that I should probably not say anything more, but I am still amazed that the single most common comment I hear about Windsor’s partnership with PINES from my academic brethren is that “we would never do that”. My sense is not that there are OSS options that can’t meet every kind of requirement for a new ILS, but that there’s an irrational fear of making any kind of change that is a huge barrier. Still, I think the prices will skyrocket in 2007 and the playing field will become more level as a result. The big institutions with the deepest pockets may be able to avoid change by paying for the privilege, but the ILS is already cracking many technology budgets and the planets have never aligned in quite the same way before in the ILS environment.

    Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  19. Melinda Baumann wrote:

    My current interests lie in the skill set(s) needed by library staff in order to respond to the technology trends discussed here. These skills include complex project management; and XML, perl, XSLT, and MySQL programming to extract/enhance/export MARC and circ data to display in a future national union OPAC. An easy prediction: all libraries, big and small, will soon not only be contributing holdings records to OCLC or another major cataloging entity, but will contribute live circulation data; and will rely on OCLC wholly for search and display so as not to need to maintain local OPACs. We also, as a profession, need leaders who are skilled at strategic planning while still being able to turn the ship around when it is called for.

    Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  20. kgs wrote:

    Art, I’m with you on all counts. We too have Google Scholar on MPOW’s main page. I should not have tossed off “marketing” without adding “and the resource to back it up.” Regarding the performance issues of metasearch tools, can we even get there from here?

    I’d say irrational fear of change plays a big part in this. Or maybe it’s not irrational fear; it’s somewhat strategic, if not well-informed (because it’s a daring leap to move an ILS).

    Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 8:58 pm | Permalink
  21. kgs wrote:

    Oops, I left out a segue up there. Fear (irrational or otherwise) plays a role in the switch to the open source ILS. Well-founded, evidence-driven concerns play a role in the adoption of metasearch.

    Monday, January 15, 2007 at 5:32 pm | Permalink
  22. Jenny Levine wrote:

    _ “People increasingly rely on and trust the web for news and inormation.
    _ Many more people have IM than you might think.
    - Everyone has a cell phone….”

    I’ll take those three things and add them up together to go one step further to say that there is an already large and still growing contingent of people (read: users) who have moved away from the web, email, the voice call, and IM to texting with their cell phones for texting certain types of messages and information. This trend will continue to grow, and it is one that libraries are not only oblivious to, but completely absent from as a channel. In fact, libraries still do not recognize that the rest of the world views cell phones as voice calls *and* information devices. And isn’t one of our businesses information?

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 9:20 am | Permalink

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