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Considering 2010 for libraries and technology

At the end of every year, lots of media outlets and assorted gurus make predictions about what is going to be happening in the next 365-odd days.  But how often do libraries stop to think about what those predictions might mean for the services they offer?  I’ve taken a selection of technology-related predictions and offered up my own library-centric interpretations.  Feel free to re-interpret, clarify or dispute in the comments.

The prediction:  The real-time web hits the mainstream.  More information will become INSTANTLY available.

My thoughts: Reference librarians that aren’t familiar with Twitter are going to get thrown for a lot of loops.  Many news outlets already post news stories on Twitter first (or at least simultaneously) with their stories on traditional media, and this practice is only going to increase.  Librarians will likely need to follow some reputable local and national news outlets on Twitter to get a better grasp on current events.   I remember when it was advised for librarians to read a newspaper to keep up; now, you might be better off to start by checking your Twitter feed in the morning.

The prediction: The advent of 3D television.

My thoughts: Actually, that’s not really a prediction:  it’s a fact.  Both Sky and Panasonic have confirmed 3D sets coming out next year.  However, this is just a beginning, and only early adopters are going to jump on what will undoubtedly be a very expensive bandwagon, intially.  I think libraries will have at least 3-4 years of grace before they have to worry about people asking for the 3D versions of movies.  Libraries need to keep an eye on this, though; it will likely mean yet another format to purchase down the road.

The prediction: Augmented reality in information and games.

My thoughts:  Already, those folks with advanced smartphones (e.g., iPhones, Droids) are using augmented reality in real life.   These phones provide all kinds of interesting additional layers of information based on location, such as where my friends are, what restaurants or gas stations are nearby, and much more.  We’re going to see this explode as people discover just how useful (and not just geeky) these kinds of applications are.  Libraries need to consider what it means when someone with Layar installed on their phone comes into the building; what additional value are they getting from the library through this kind of information layer?  Wouldn’t it be great if they could easily be pointed to the bathrooms, DVD or reference assistance?

The prediction:  Near-field communications will allow people to start paying for things using their mobile devices.

My thoughts:  This is already in use in many countries (but, alas, not the U.S. yet).  It’s a matter of time before Americans catch on to the idea that their phone can also be their wallet.  It probably won’t happen in 2010 though.  For libraries, this raises some big questions.  Most libraries still haven’t managed to accept fine payments online.  What happens when people want to pay via their phones?

The prediction: Internet Explorer 6 support will be dropped by up to 90% of websites.

My thoughts: Again, this is something that is already happening.  Many developers even charge extra now to create sites that render clearly in Internet Explorer 6, because IE is already on version 8 and so 6 is essentially legacy software. Even Microsoft is encouraging people to upgrade to newer versions of their browser.  If your library still uses Internet Explorer 6, it will become increasingly difficult for your library’s patrons to view the Web in 2010.  Resolve to upgrade the browsing experience for your patrons in 2010.

What does this mean to me, Laura?

  • Don’t panic. We all know change will happen, and it will happen faster than we can really absorb it.  However, major shifts tend to happen a little more gradually.  The problem is that libraries tend to be more reactive than proactive; the kinds of shifts I mention, above, really require some thinking ahead.  Don’t wait until the last minute to learn more about these technologies.
  • Upgrade your Internet Explorer browser.  NOW. IE6 is just evil and must die.  Not that I’m biased or anything.

Happy New Year!

There are 2 comments

  1. Just starting to explore Twitter here, as we think it may be an option for emergency closing alerts, etc.

    Can you recommend “some reputable local and national news outlets” for me to check out?

    Mostly I use it now to follow your blog and the OPLIN Twitter postings, as well as a few select others. But it would be good to expand that for breaking news …

    1. Hi Lynne,

      Your best bet is to check the websites of your local papers/tv stations for links to their Twitter accounts. As for national outlets, I can recommend the NY Times (http://twitter.com/nytimes) or CNN (http://twitter.com/cnn). But most major news outlets have a Twitter account now, so it may just be a matter of checking around their websites to find the link.

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