April 19, 2018

ALA Midwinter 2012: From Consumer Electronics Through Post-ILS, Top Tech Trends Run the Gamut

This morning’s Top Technology Trends (TTT) panel at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Dallas, TX, attracted its usual large audience as speakers singled out topics like user expectations, analytics, systems integration, and data interoperability as areas for the library community to watch. The range of highlights was more varied than last June’s TTT panel at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, which concentrated on the rise of mobile apps and social networking services.

Stephen Abram, VP for strategic partnerships and markets at Cengage Learning and author of the popular Stephens Lighthouse blog, highlighted how increasingly “frictionless” payment methods using smartphones could change expectations of libraries. For example, when a patron can access an ebook on their phone instantly, why would a patron physically drive to a library? Abram asked, “what’s the library service proposition, when we’ve been building ourselves on inventory, and the inventory moves into the virtual space?” (Later, when speaking about mobile, he characterized QR codes as “a lovely transitional technology that won’t exist in a couple of years.”)

He also said that technologies that meld the electronic and physical object experience could become more popular in the future. Many people still like vinyl records and physical books, and he cited tech that can create physical objects from electronic data—such as the Espresso Book Machine [see LJ’s recent story on that technology on The Digital Shift] and 3D printers—as deserving of attention.

Nina McHale, assistant systems administrator at the Arapahoe Library District, Englewood, CO, spoke about IT staffing in libraries. “Our strategic plans … have become more and more laden with more online tools, more online development, more online resources,” she said. In the past year, she has seen libraries hiring lots of programmers–“not librarians who kinda, sorta know how to program but actual honest-to-God programmers with computer science backgrounds.” One difficulty she saw in this trend, however, is that such hires are expensive. “If we need specific professionals … we need to make sure that we can pay what the current going rate is for these people, wherever we live,” she said.

She also highlighted the importance of web analytics for tracking patron use of resources, predominantly via Google Analytics. “As we continue to put more and more online, it’s critical that we know how our customers are engaging in our online environments,” she said. “Web analytics is not just for IT anymore.” (Abram pointed out that he’d recently posted about alternative, non-Google analytics tools on his blog.)

“The impending demise of the ILS” was a provocative trend that Marshall Breeding, director for innovative technologies and research at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, and author of the Library Technology Guides website. These systems aren’t as integrated or comprehensive anymore, as “it takes maybe eight or nine or ten different application … to do the things that academic libraries do.” Non-ILS services, such as Ex Libris’s Alma, have come on the scene in the last few years to address libraries’ needs, and he sees them replacing typical ILS-centered systems.

He also said that the “reintegration of discovery” would be an ongoing trend. “As the back-end modernizes and becomes more comprehensive itself, and has more hooks into the remote resources … it reintroduces the opportunity to integrate discovery and back-end automation,” he said. Long-term, he saw “matched sets” becoming more prevalent; as examples, he said that Ex Libris’s Alma, for example, integrates easily with the company’s Primo and Primo Central, while OCLC’s WorldShare Management Services works easily with WorldCat Local. “Eventually, the pre-paired sets will dominate,” he said.

Sue Polanka, head of reference and instruction at Wright State University Libraries, Dayton, OH (and a 2011 LJ Mover & Shaker), said that self-service will continue as a trend. She highlighted ebook vending machines in Japan, and an iPad-lending kiosk system recently unveiled at ALA Midwinter. (Though unnamed, she was likely referring to the MediaSurfer system released by Tech Logic.)

She also highlighted as a trend the use of “smartboards” as teaching tools in libraries, pointing out a recent Pattern Recognition blog post by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Jason Griffey on the InFocus Mondopad at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. [See LJ’s coverage of CES on The Digital Shift.]

Longtime TTT veteran Lorcan Dempsey, VP for research and chief strategist at OCLC, looked at the rise of personal and institutional curation services. “Discovery increasingly happens elsewhere,” he said; users come to libraries from Amazon, Google, PubMed, and other places, but also come from citation management services such as Mendeley and Zotero, or recommendation sites like Goodreads. “How do libraries represent themselves in the places where discovery happens?”

He also said that although “libraries are used to talking about interoperability, and assume that interoperability increases over time,” there appeared to be a trend toward separate platforms, with Google, Apple, and Microsoft building their own non-interoperable platforms for content. (Abrams called this “a return to walled gardens.”) In the next few years, he said, platforms may become more fragmented in the consumer-electronics sphere, “in ways that don’t make it easy to do some of the things that libraries would like to do.”

[LITA has posted a partial video of the TTT panel on its Ustream site.]

David Rapp About David Rapp

David Rapp (drapp@mediasourceinc.com) was formerly Associate Editor, LJ.

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