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Top Tech Trends, Wish Fulfillment, or Nightmares?

Note: be sure to read this post if you AREN’T going to ALA Annual — because there’s some free (as in zero-cost) participation opportunities here.  For this conference’s LITA Top Technology Trends, I am part of an online team honchoed by Cindi Trainor that will facilitate a concurrent online discussion. I will post to here, Twitter, and Facebook when I know the URL.

This time we are being given a series of “discussion starter topics,” some of which read like subliminal sales fodder, but no mind, it’s interesting to be told what my trends are. 😉 My comments below.

LITA Top Tech Trends Discussion Starter Topics
ALA Annual Chicago, July 2009

~IT, the Economy, and the Environment
In five years, shrinking institutional budgets, shifting user needs, and heightened environmental awareness will create a library profession largely based in online and virtual worlds. A new Internet and rapid change in communication and collaborative technologies will bring about a new commodity information profession in which half of all librarians will be unaffiliated freelance professionals who contract their services remotely to multiple institutions. The conference model for professional development will be gone, and ALA and other professional organizations will serve the role of coordinating online tools and training for information service specializations.

Not that fast and not that extreme. These are all real trends but they will happen more slowly. As for “virtual worlds,” I think we’ve seen Second Life come and go. Fun experiment, now move along folks.

~Open Everything (software, data, systems, etc) and Network Effect
In five years, further consolidation and upheaval will turn the library software market on its head. The drive towards open source systems, open linked data, open APIs, and network-level data and services will have gained full steam as libraries come to own, develop, share, and manage all of their own systems and data. A few major players will provide the network and service backbone, but the majority of the vendor market will shift to providing contract consulting and development services along with offerings of plug-ins and modules that they have built to augment to the unified data / systems superstructure owned and cooperatively managed by library governance bodies and co-ops. [With their new-found unity, libraries will band together to force Elsevier to open it’s article content and drop prices.]

Holy grammar, Batman! Never mind these exotic predictions. In five years librarians still won’t be familiar with Mr. Apostrophe and his twin cousins, the Parentheses. Call the copy editor, STAT!

There is indeed a trend toward openness and self-managed data and systems, and it is a trend that will grow and needs to grow, for the simple reason that it is necessary and healthy for us to build the tools we use to manage our content. How that fits into the cloud-computing model that is headed our way like a Cat 5 hurricane is unclear to me. I think it’s a good thing for vendors to get out of the proprietary-licensing business and into service and development — good for us, good for them.

~Mobile Computing, Virtual Computing, and the Cloud
In five years, handheld and mobile devices will outstrip desktop and laptop computers as the dominant computing platform, backed by an ever-present data and computing cloud run by private industry. Libraries will leave the storage and hardware business behind, abandon their one-stop-shop web sites and systems, and start profiling users based on their transaction and usage history, interests, social networks, and community/campus activities. Libraries will focus on two main areas: 1) Building tools and services that push content into the user’s personal and social computing environment, and 2) providing in their physical space for large displays and interactive peripherals that users can plug their own devices in to.

“In to”?

Anyhoo, I agree the desktop is fading and mobile/ubiquitious devices are on the rise, but what interests me here is that it seems to overlook what most public libraries do these days, which is transact huge quantities of physical materials. I think this the kind of trend it’s easy for academics to overlook, since behavior on campuses is so different. I spend a lot of time thinking about (worrying about, really) the fate of public libraries when physical media is preempted by whatever device(s) are imminent. The movement toward digital, on-demand reading/experiential materials has many ramifications, few of which any of us have explored.

(It’s so interesting to me, as a writer, how librarians forget how people actually use libraries — to like, you know, find things to read.)

~Current and Future Trends for the Library Catalog
In five years, the local catalog will join the card catalog as a thing of the past. The next-next generation catalog is no catalog at all. All content and data will reside at the network level as one pool that intermingles with the other major pools in the information string of “great lakes”–Google, Hathi Trust, Open Content Alliance, and a handful of Journal aggregators. The niche role of libraries will be aggregating and digesting information from diverse systems and custom-packaging it for their local audiences and local services.

Ah yes, the Haughty Trust (bad me, did I say that?). If we really do move to the all-important cloud (again, five years? I think not), we won’t be worrying about the Big O, or Hathi Trust, or anything else, because we’ll be out of business. The “niche role” won’t be enough to sustain a profession.

About to board, or I’d do my own trends. Thoughts? Additions? More typos to correct?

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