LITA Top Technology Trends

Last Sunday in between putting up cabinet doors and breaking up out of control light saber fights,  I tried to sit down and listen to the live broadcast of LITA’s Top Technology Trends at ALA Midwinter.  The librarian Twitterverse was in the house tweeting about the broadcast and the speakers ideas.

It was interesting to hear what the other side of librarianship is doing.  I will do my best to sum it up. If any of you listened to the broadcast, were there, or if any of the panelists find any of this information incorrect, please let me know and I will correct it.  As I mentioned I was called away from the computer every so often.  -Sorry (Thank you Jason Griffey for correcting some of my attribution mistakes. I have made the corrections based off of his comments.)

David Walker was the first panelist and he spoke primarily about discovery systems.  Basically it is sort of like federated search but vamped up.  These systems take advantage of library collections and open them up to the users.  According to David their impact and emergence has been small and slow but that is due mainly to the economy.  But he sees discovery systems possibly replacing federated search. 

If the idea of a discovery system is a little confusing (due to my poor coverage of the meeting) and still sounds like federated searching here is an article I found about it in libraries,  The Evolution of Library Discovery Systems in the Web Environment.  Lorcan Dempsy also has a short blog post with links about them, Institutional Discovery Systems.

In David’s presentation and discussion, he wondered why there aren’t more library consortiums out there coming together to build discovery systems.  Personally, I think it is because there just aren’t enough librarians who do real programming to do this sort of stuff.  Many middle to large libraries have one systems librarian who has to balance the operations of the library with everything else techie.  Then you have a whole slew of middle to large libraries that are a part of a larger institution that doesn’t really justify/have/use/need(?) a programmer librarian because they have a giant IT department.  Finally you have the small libraries who often outsource a lot of their IT stuff and if they are lucky have somebody to do web pages.  Basically librarians as a whole are not a large group of people who do programming and coding as their basic jobs, whereas library vendors pay for programmers and coders who just build and maintain the stuff and they aren’t librarians.  Until libraries start hiring programmer not librarian programmers to specifically focus on creating products you aren’t going to have lots of consortias developing these type of things.

Amanda Etches Johnson talked about the user experience in libraries and online.  According to Amanda, user experience is not something we do well but is critical.  The user experience is not just whether somebody can find something but it is about how people feel when they are looking for something.  How they feel while they are looking often drives how they are looking. 

Amanda also talks about the mobile web and how it is totally different from the regular web.  However, people are seeking out mobile interfaces not just on mobile devices but also on regular computers because it is a stripped down fast website, and they want speed.  What we do for mobile devices will impact how we design for the web.  Somebody (don’t know if it was Amanda or audience) mentioned MEDLINE’s mobile service which launched last week was a good example of slimming down a full site to a mobile site. (Whoo hoo for the medical stuff getting in there as an example!)

Joe Murphy discussed the mobile web also, but he discussed SMS and the issues of apps.  According to Joe, SMS is the oldest and strongest of the mobile technologies and it is a good communication and research tool.  He said SMS for reference has really taken off. 

(Can anybody in the medical library world confirm if it has really taken off, because I haven’t hear much about it, but maybe I haven’t been listening.)

User expectations and mobile apps are changing.  Users expect and demand more from their apps.  I was sort of confused with Joe’s discussion (perhaps it was because I was distracted with a new round light saber death duels) but I got the impression that Joe was lamenting that there were only a few apps in the whole iPhone app store on or about libraries.  He mentioned OCLC’s WorldCat, LibraryThing, and somebody reminded him about NLM’s app but then he seemed to complain that libraries weren’t getting apps out and there weren’t any apps for libraries. 

If I heard correctly (which I may not have due sound of plastic light sabers colliding and eventually crying) then I have a real problem with Joe lamenting about the lack of library apps.  Apps are not where it is at for libraries and librarians, we don’t have the skills, the time, and money to create multi platform apps and maintain and upgrade them.  We should be looking at mobile friendly websites and HTML5 (presented by Jason Griffey later on).

Lauren Pressley spoke about augmented reality.  This has some seriously cool uses in libraries (including medical libraries).  Lauren used a great example to describe what augmented reality was.  Think of football, when the team is on the field there is a blue line on the TV indicating the line of scrimmage and a yellow line indicating the first down.  These lines aren’t physically on the field, but they are on your TV to help you enjoy and follow the game.  For another example of what augmented reality is go to 10 Amazing Augmented Reality iPhone Appsat Mashable and you will see how data can be overlaid on to the screen to making more (and different) information visible. 

Lauren mentioned the library at North Carolina State is working on an augmented reality app which links information about buildings and services to geographic coordinates on the campus.  I said augmented reality has some really neat potential in libraries, think of all the data that we have that is not necessarily easily found or together.  For example, somebody (Lauren or a audience member) mentioned an augmented reality app would be very helpful while browsing the library shelves. Why?  Well think of your electronic textbooks, they aren’t sitting on the shelves are they?  Do you have dummy books or are they just in the catalog waiting for somebody to search for them in the computer?  In our library, a great many patrons find books by browsing, never touching the catalog.  An augmented reality app might (in the future) be quite helpful.  Could we get by with dummy books? Maybe, but every time we get a new batch of electronic books (or one dies) we have to do more dummy books.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just upload that information from either our catalog or our A-Z list?

Of course augmented reality looks to have some very interesting applications in libraries, the issue of how are we going to create and maintain these things still rears its ugly head.  I don’t know of any easy way (like creating web pages) of creating augmented reality apps.  Heck mashups were the next “new” thing for libraries and so far that is still within the programming world and largely untouched in the library world. 

Jason Griffey announced that 2010 is the year the app will die.  Interesting a bold prediction since the “There’s an app for that” craze appears to be in full swing.  But Jason mentions HTML5 and CSS3 as the reasons why the app will face extinction.  HTML5 and CSS3 will include local storage, drag and drop functionality and have embedded audio and video. 

For more information about these two things and how they will impact mobile platforms look at MSN, Apps call, but will your phone answer? which discusses app fragmentation in the mobile market and how HTML5 will function on all mobile devices.

I completely agree with Joe. I find it interesting that one of the presenters really talked about library apps while the other said the app is dead. 

Finally the last bit of discussion centered around e-books.   Each panelist was given 3 minutes to give their .02 on e-books.  (This was like the rapid fire round for me, while I listened to what they had to say, it was hard to digest it all.)

Jason saw the future of e-books resting on platforms not devices.  He said that the e-book hardware is dying.  (Interesting since everybody and their grandma got a Kindle for Christmas.)  He said  Joe said there are group of users, him being one of them, that are singular universal device users.  They don’t want to carry around a separate reader device.  If he can’t get it on the iPhone he doesn’t want it.  I can see that. 

So if devices are dead, the growth is in platforms.  He Jason specifically mentioned,  Blio and Copia.  Copia is a platform for e-books that is intended to act as a “social reading experience.”  Readers can comment, discuss, pass on thoughts, stories, and other things to others who are also reading the same book.  I am not sure how Copia would do in special, academic or hospital libraries.  I see it totally rocking for public libraries and book clubs.   Blio (has an anatomy book on their front page) preserves the books original layout and graphics. Joe  Jason mentioned that Blio allows instructors to insert quizzes within the books so that after somebody has read a chapter they can get quizzed on the information.  (I do not see this anywhere on their site though.) Jason later said in the comments below he saw this feature demonstrated at CES2010. Totally cool, I think that stuff should be added to their website, because those are the kind of features that interest people and institutional buyers. 

Joe agreed that libraries should stay out of the hardware (I guess stop buying those Kindles) and look at content.  He said there is a shift from content ownership toward restrictive license agreements.  He said things are going more restrictive.  I don’t know if he meant this statement for all libraries or just public libraries, because it seems we medical librarians have been dealing with the whole ugly restrictive license agreement mess for quite some time.   

Amanda echoed the hardware issues that Jason and Joe mentioned, but from her perspective as a Canadian.  She said that she had her first Kindle sighting in Canada just a week ago. 

Last but not least David mentioned that e-books are not on the same level as e-journals.  There isn’t any parity.  E-journal usage is through the roof while e-books just putter along (my paraphrasing).  David wondered if e-books were as digitally accessible as journal articles whether that would change undergraduate research. 

So there you have it.  I know the meeting happened on Sunday, sorry it took me so long to get the report up for you all.  I was hoping that I could listen to it again and refresh my memory, but I can’t find a copy. 

If you are interested in reading more about what happened at the meeting you can go to for a synopsis, the LITA blog for the entire Twitter discussion (very confusing to follow if you didn’t listen to the program), American Libraries summary, and a nice bulletin summaryat lyndamk.

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