Sarah Houghton’s Top Technology Trends

Training the Patrons, Part Deux
Libraries will continue to focus on training users on basic computer issues (e-mail, internet searching, how to use our resources) but more libraries will branch out into non-library topics like online commerce, digital photography, file sharing, blogging, and more. These kinds of classes are already taking place at a select few libraries, but I think we’re going to see more and more of it in the near future.

Virtual Reference loses a few pounds
Heavyweight web-based library chat products are going to have to do some serious self-examination. Their clunky heavyweight software causes disconnects, glitches, and delays for many patron interactions. Lighter-weight options like Instant Messaging and Jybe (browser plug-in that offers chat, co-browsing, document sharing, and voice capabilities) will become more attractive and mainstream options for many libraries, small and large.

A Penny for Technology, Sir?
Libraries are going to need to invest more money in technology, and not just hardware and software, though that is a large part of it. Library leadership needs to start investing significant money in training its staff, both professional and paraprofessional, in technology. The money will also need to go to create new specialized positions that provide technology support, training, and expertise. This money also needs to go into facilities—full-on computer labs (preferably a separate room), ergonomic furniture, computer-correct lighting, etc.

Self-Sufficient Virtual Branches
More and more services that used to be in-library only are becoming remotely accessible to patrons. This pattern will continue, as more and more services get virtual equivalents. The brave new frontier of remote services (in my head at least) includes streaming video/audio of events (storytimes, author readings, how-to programs), strong collections of downloadable (and cross-platform) audio & video, digital delivery of ILL items, and video reference assistance.

Opening up Library Computers
Most public and school libraries have the public use computers locked down for security reasons. This could mean having certain drives locked, disabling downloading and installations, having very limited software, disabling ports, and having few if any peripherals (scanners, speakers). While we claim that our public use computers help to bridge the digital divide (which they do by providing internet access & perhaps word processing), we need to do more. I think that over the next 3-5 years, libraries are going to wake up to this and realize that there are ways to keep your computers secure while at the same time providing the computer-disadvantaged public with the software and hardware capabilities they need to compete in this ever-expanding information age.

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Sarah Houghton-Jan

I am a TTT expert for LITA and currently work as the Digital Futures Manager for the San Jose Public Library. I blog at

5 thoughts on “Sarah Houghton’s Top Technology Trends”

  1. Virtual Reference loses a few pounds

    You know, I don’t know if this rates as a “technology” trend. I mean, IM’s been around for years. I’d say rather that this represents a considerable improvement in our understanding of technology — what’s acceptable to our users and what isn’t.

    All I can say is Hallelujah!

  2. I guess I consider it a technology trend because either the heavyweight virtual reference products are going to have to change how their products work (aka the functionality of their technology) or libraries are going to turn to alternative products/technologies to meet their VR needs. In my head it’s comparable to people turning from IE to Firefox…a change in software, a change in venue.

  3. I think what may happen is that we’ll just settle on the popular IM applications that normal people use. The channel on this one is already dug and it’s called IM/Yahoo (where we have the multi-protocol app’s to communicate with them all).

    On the VR front, I’m not quite sure it’s the specialized applications — specialized for library use, that is — that are going to make a spash, rather it’s adopting (or kidnapping if you will), certain very interesting advances in communications.

    All you have to do is get one of those iSight cameras connected to your computer and then have someone at the other end of the earth — similiarly equiped — communicating with you, to realize its potential for VR.

    iSight may be limited to Macs but I’m sure there are just as good equivalents on the PC side of things.

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