Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Technology Trends for 2007

It is that time of the year where bloggers and technology column writers come up with their lists of trends to watch for the year. Here is my initial list in no particular order. While the first couple are library-related items most of them are generic.

- The debate will continue within the library application development community between those who feel the need to develop new tools and services based on open source principles and those who argue that it is better to make use of existing tools and services from vendors. The emergence of service-oriented architecture adds fuel to the debate since powerful applications can be developed and content shared using relatively simple tools.

- Much in the way telephone and gas monopolies were broken up, the ILS will finally begin to be broken into parts. Service-oriented architecture can be used to create an ILS in a layered approach which allows the core catalog, search modules, and user interfaces to be independent applications. The phrase "integrated library system" will soon refer to independent software modules being integrated together rather than a single monolithic application with fully integrated applications. An ILS mashup using WorldCat data can not be far away.

- This year will see the emergence of Mobcasting, a phenomenon where event observers capture events on their video phones and podcast the footage on a blog. An aggregated footage results from RSS feeds produced from the blogs of multiple observers. This will lead to live event coverage by bloggers that is more in depth than can be captured by mainstream media.

- In 2006, many of the large television networks used their web sites to distribute episodes of shows after they aired, or in some case, the last episodes of shows which were canceled. During the upcoming year there will be an increase in the number of live mobile video sites such as ManiaTV.

- Internet guru Bob Metcalfe once predicted that the Internet will crash (I was at the InternetWorld conference where he ate his column when it didn't). The proliferation of viruses, Trojan horses, spam, and security flaws are creating an enormouse amount of unnecessary traffic. The increase in the amount of video being distributed on the Internet in 2007 will put a significant strain on the network, as will the emergence of WiMax. The investment in core network infrastructure is simply not keeping pace with the usage and demand which may lead to network outages that Metcalfe predicted a decade ago.

- The combination of passwords, PINs, signatures and keys as the principal means of providing digital security is becoming increasing difficult for the average network user. In 2007, there will be a new push to use biometric-based security, whereby a physical characteristic of individuals provides the additional layer of security.

- The use of flash memory as the storage device will heat up. We are likely to see major technology companies introducing computers and devices without disk drives. Flash-based "point of service" devices that transfer content via Bluetooth or WiFi, like Tank U, will begin to make an appearance.

- Networked-based consumer products like Chumby (a wireless web-enabled clock radio) and flickr photo frames will move networked content into a new era. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, January 19, 2007

Viewing Technology with the Proper Eyewear

An issue that I have been thinking about as I prepare for some upcoming presentations is that IT is often a world of mystery for library directors. Yet, IT is at the core of everything we now do in libraries. If one were to turn off all the computers, as one may experience when a network segment goes down, little gets done.

Since our customer's expectations and the pace and complexity of technological change going on all around us demands that library directors change the way they think about and manage IT.

It is all too common that technology discussions with colleagues around the country turn into discussions about how directors do not view technology as a primary tool for library services, but as a utility. They discuss how their library provides ample resources to resource development and public services but IT struggles to get what they need to keep pace with change. They discuss how their staff approaches technology as a strange and mysterious creature than only a few technology geeks can deal with.

Given the fiscal and administrative functions and responsibilities of library directors it is nearly impossible for them to keep up with technology. As an IT professional even I am challenged. Still, the library director sets the vision for the organization. If that vision does not make IT a critical part of the equation the library will be slow to develop or innovate IT based services. The staff will continue to view technology as a mystery.

If a director is not IT savvy, they need top rely upon someone else when it comes to issues involving technology. The relationship between the library director and this technology leader is becoming more critical than ever. This technology leader needs to be a part of all strategic planning and decision making processes.

As I read over position descriptions for library directors I see phrases like "require a record of establishing relationships and positive communications with coworkers and superiors in a collaborative, cooperative work setting" or "knowledge of and experience in financial, budget, human resource management..." or "documented managerial and administrative effectiveness."

It is rare to see descriptions that include phrases like "provides leadership in the application of digital resources" or "oversight of library information technology, particularly in the area of the effective development and application of technology tools for teaching, learning, and outreach."

While many librarians may be in denial, libraries of the 21st century are all about IT. It is therefore essential that directors are recruited with an IT vision, or at least with the proper eyewear.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Chicken or the Egg?

No matter how many blogs I read I always seem to miss something of interest. In preparing for an upcoming panel presentation I came across the Taiga Forum's provocative statements (pdf) published in early 2006. Although I am late on this thread, these statements deserve revisting since they seem to summarize the various major topic areas that were blogged by librarians last year.

While being defined as being provocative I didn't find them that provocative. Perhaps this is because I am reading them retrospectively. Then again, maybe they would be provocative if I were a technical services/cataloging librarian.

The only statement that I thought was provocative is number 8:

" Within the next five years.... there will be no more librarians as we know them. Staff may have MBAs or be computer/data scientists. All library staff will need the technical skills equivalent to today’s systems and web services personnel. The ever increasing technology curve will precipitate a high turnover among traditional librarians; the average age of library staff will have dropped to 28."

This statement leads one to believe the shift will result from changes in technology when the reason behind the change is something that we have been expecting. We know there is a graying of our profession and a significant number of library professionals will retire in the upcoming years. At the same time the number of library schools and individuals going to library school has decreased. In order for libraries to survive libraries will need employees. Given the dearth of library school graduates we will need to hiring employees with alternative degrees. So, we will see more alternative degrees.

Younger individuals become library professionals will likely come in with a more technical orientation and skill set which will push forward the creation and integration of more technology services.

Therefore, I feel the increasing technology curve will not precipitate the high turnover. The high turnover is a bubble that we have been waiting to burst for ten years now. The turnover will bring in younger, more technology oriented library professionals which will in effect lead to an increase in technology deployment that may have been held back by the "old school" librarians heading into the next phase of their lives. Sphere: Related Content