ALA update 2008 2 July 7, 2008
The “Top Technology Trends” program sponsored by LITA (Library and Information Technology Association, ALA) is an annual event that draws hundreds of people. This year was no exception—there must have been several hundred attendees in the large meeting room on the Anaheim Hilton. There were ten panelists including two remotely via webcams. The large number of panelists had pros and cons. The advantage was a broad perspective on technology trends. The disadvantage was that they tended to repeat each other’s comments and there was less focus than I had hoped for. They also experimented by setting up a blog for the audience to weigh in on things, but the projection of the comments on a large screen to the left of the podium was more of a distraction than a help.
Some of the trends mentioned included:
1. A movement toward more open source software for libraries, including entire ILS systems. While the speaker was enthusiastic, another panelist was cautionary, noting that open source is not a panacea for our problems: it has to be maintained locally and there are associated costs (support personnel, for example).
2. A demand for “open data” and API’s (Application Program Interface) by libraries, along with the desire for more open source software. Some libraries are beginning to write their own software again, like in the “old days,” not waiting for vendors to come up with a solution.
3. Virtual organizations is another trend, i.e. people working together online to share information, speed up projects, and be more efficient.
4. Related to the previous trend, is the growing use of “telepresence,” the use of video conferencing for the same reasons and to reduce travel time and costs. High end equipment makes one feel that he or she is in the same room, around the same table as colleagues physically located elsewhere.
5. Social software itself is a major trend that all of us are aware of and many of us utilize to share information about ourselves and our interests. One panelist suggested that libraries, especially public libraries, should collect local information (history, photographs, etc.) and make it available to the public.
6. The use of Flickr and similar social networking tools by cultural heritage organizations such as museums to expose their collections on the Internet.
7. Libraries experimenting with new technologies for a variety of purposes: service enhancements, communication, information access, etc.
8. Libraries are providing hardware and software for creative digital projects. We do this in a big way in the IC Digital Media Lab.
9. The use of green technology was cited as a small but growing trend, both to save energy and to recycle computer parts.
10. Converged media is a major movement, most evident in multi-use cell phones and smart phones. One can do many things on one device including, most recently, watching TV. It was suggested that libraries need to adapt their web pages to be viewable on portable devices such as cell phones. One person noted that it would be nice to search the catalog on your smart phone while in the stacks.
A. Some think it is easier to get bibliographic data from publishers’ web sites and Amazon than it is from the catalog. What does this mean for the future of cataloging and how we provide access to our collections?
B. In the UK, the term for Information Commons is “Social Learning Space.”
C. Blogs should be archived, otherwise potentially useful information will be lost.
D. It was pointed out that individuals need to take responsibility for their own learning and continuing education in the area of technology. The use of online courses was cited as a means to do this. It is also important for management to facilitate and support the education of the staff.