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Top Technology Trends: Your Input Wanted

Once again I’m contributing to the LITA Top Technology Trends panel at ALA, as I have done since going on the panel in 2005. I peeked at my trends for January 2005, and I didn’t do too badly; I predicted “blogs everywhere,” and heck, even Michael Gorman is blogging, so there you go.

I am once again asking for input from you, Gentle Reader, because you’re so smart and I’m so lazy. I’ll toss out some ideas banging around my brain to see if this stimulates anything. Note that I won’t actually be at the panel, but I will create a video next Thursday, June 21, so have your input in to this site by Wednesday, June 20.

OPAC-y trends

In January I paused briefly to ask what a trend was in the first place. I’d like to repeat that there’s a difference between things we find interesting, things we would like to be trends, and bona fide trends. I want to say that the open source catalog is a trend, largely because I think the addition of the open source model through two products, Evergreen and Koha, and related maintenance companies such as Equinox and Liblime decalcifies a stodgy, largely uncompetitive commodity market. But perhaps it is a proto-trend, worth watching to see where it goes. I will say any library considering a change in ILS vendor should consider open source. (Full disclosure — and speaking of wished-for trends, I’d like to see librarians always disclose such conflicts — I have been in conversation with Equinox about doing some writing/consulting work for them.)

Also, trends are not always healthy or positive (q.v. Atlantic Magazine’s attempt to see the sunny side of global warming). The flip side of dressing up a library catalog with a better front end is now you have not one but two applications to maintain. We can explode the catalog, but then we still have to stick the parts back together again so we can not just discover books but get them bought, cataloged, accessioned, and managed.

We see a lot of tinkering with the catalog, from Scriblio to various tagging efforts to, of course, several Endeca implementations. I’m somewhat concerned that “We need to improve discovery for our patrons” has in some corners anti-trended to “We need to buy Endeca and pour it on our ILS.” My axe, to be clear, is that I drove the selection and implementation process of Siderean at My Former Place Of Work Minus 1, so I know from experience that there are several other products worth evaluating, not only Siderean but i411, Dieselpoint, and FAST.

Additionally, I have observed library systems assume that the earliest implementations of Endeca have been the sine qua non of reinvented discovery. I consider this a trend away from rethinking the OPAC. In fact, with no disrespect to earlier efforts, I would say that the first truly interesting implementation of a guided-navigation engine in a library is Phoenix Public Library (they too used Endeca), and that’s in a large part because they did not just try to pour Endeca on their catalog; they also did a lot of planning, usability testing, and iterative design, and rethought their library’s web presence from the ground up (more about that in my next Techsource post).

Buying expertise

It intrigues me that in the past year, Darien Public Library has snapped up John Blyberg (and others, I think), and OCLC has hired Karen Calhoun and Roy Tennant. When someone asked me what OCLC’s current strategy was, I said it was acquiring new expertise. I’m very curious to see where Worldcat and Worldcat Local go with those two there, particularly now that OCLC seems to be putting less focus on its regional networks and thinking of itself in national and international terms.

Broader trends

In the past six or seven trends, I’ve written about privacy getting softer, hardware getting cheaper, wifi becoming ubiquitous… all these have had an impact on services libraries deliver and the expectations of library users. When I do my video next week I’m going to discuss services such as Twitterlit, which take social software and extend it into realms we traditionally thought of as ours.
Then there are the G-Men. I know we’re all supposed to love Google because they’re about Not Doing Evil, but now they’re hoovering up massive library collections, sometimes with draconian agreements that should give us all pause… and yet there is little outrage. Google sometimes reminds me of those movies from the Cold War era where when you see the shadow of a huge Iron Cross fall on some poor village you know the unsuspecting peasants are doomed. Do we know we are doomed? Do we care? The trend here is what I discussed at NASIG: our increasing comfort level with handing expertise, content, jurisdiction and ownership to third parties. What are we about?

But enough about little old me… what are your trends?

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