LITA’s Top Technology Trends

This was one of the sessions I really wanted to see, but missed at ALA due to distances.  Unfortunately, the video cuts off before they’re finished, but it’s an interesting discussion nonetheless.  I couldn’t get the longer “related” video at this link to play – so much for technology…

The top topics people wanted the panel to discuss were mobile and cloud computing.  The moderator predicted that within five years, using mobile devices for computing will be more popular than using desktops and laptops.  John Blyberg felt that ultra portable computing devices have already become more popular than larger computers.  Geert van de Boogaard thought that soon you’ll be able to download library materials to your mobile devices and that we should concentrate on development (e.g. create library catalog apps for the iPhone).  But, Roy Tennant questioned whether everyone really will be on mobile devices in five years as they have their limitations.  Eric Lease Morgan agreed that each type of computer had its strengths and weaknesses and that for doing extensive research with lengthy texts, desktops are best (though van de Boogaard felt that some people are going to use their iPhone no matter what – they’ll even watch movies on it). 

Clifford Lynch mentioned that moving to mobile devices, where images and videos are easy to create and words less so, means less prose will be generated – the old “decline of the written word” prediction again.  Geert pointed out that a lot of people are (re)discovering the library because of technology – they’ve got the devices but they want content for them and libraries give them the content for free.  Someone also mentioned that people who access libraries via technology enable us to profile them, which allows libraries to push desired information to them. 

Re cloud computing, Morgan felt that it moves us away from our mission of preserving materials, because if stuff is put out into the cloud (to save on local storage and energy costs etc.), we aren’t preserving that information, someone else is. 

Open source systems developed and owned by cooperative library agencies was the next prediction – oh happy day! – (along with a tongue-in-cheek prediction that librarians would band together to force overpriced content vendors (Elsevier was mentioned) to lower their prices).  Morgan was skeptical that all libraries would want to have control over their computing and felt that there would still be a market for automation vendors’ services and that librarians don’t have the chutzpah to get publishers to succumb (he felt that connecting our customers with information is such a priority for us that we’ll pay almost anything for the content).  Joan Frye Williams  felt that end users are quickly passing libraries as the target market for vendors, especially as they are less demanding.

Cool stuff, but I wonder how in touch the panelists are with reality at all those small and rural libraries.  Many areas still have slow internet access, which makes mobile computing too difficult to bother with.  Hopefully recovery money will improve this situation but right now I just see the gap between the technological haves and have-nots widening with alarming speed.

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