Lots of ideas at the LITA Emerging Technologies IG

When: Monday Jan. 22, 2007

The scene: Around 60-70 people attended this IG on the final day of the ’07 Midwinter conference. It was standing room only, which of course meant that several sat on the floor. The discussion was wide-ranging, with Joe Ford, of Joseph Ford & Associates, presiding as incoming chair.

The primary role of the Emerging Technologies IG at Midwinter is to program the summer session as close to the bleeding edge as possible, and to that end, nearly everyone attending had suggestions on what they would like to see this coming June in Washington D.C. With very little coaxing, the group took off on a free-wheeling discussion, talking about what emerging technologies most interest or concern them.

Several themes quickly emerged: the implications of widely available broadband, large amounts of personal storage capacity, the effects of widely social information consumption, as well as the legal and social implications of what it all may mean.

Following are nearly all of the ideas brought up by the group:

  • Second Life, and other virtual communities, and to what extent should librarians be present within them. Avatars, etc.
  • The next generation of discovery interfaces to library holdings: What are the implementation costs, return on investment? Is it worth it for libraries?
  • The advent of WiMax (broadband wide-range wireless): It was noted that on the east side of the Seattle area, between the next 90-100 days, there will be 500-600 Kilobit transmissions with a range of 10 or more miles available to the community. This will provide competition with DSL and cable access to the Internet. What will this mean to the library community? What will this mean in terms of affordability, both for the individual as well as public institutions like libraries?
  • What is the process for libraries attempting to make the jump by forecasting emerging technologies and understanding the coming dynamics better? Using the upcoming iPhone as an example, how can libraries understand the implications of this new personal device?
  • The potential and implications of a migration to the online sphere in terms of operating systems, network drives, and desktop applications like Word and Excel which appears to be currently underway.
  • A participant asked about what a job description would look like if libraries employed an “emerging technology librarian.” Oregon State University noted that they currently have an endowed chair that’s similar: an Innovative Digital Services Librarian.
  • The current state of Widgets (single function applications) for such chores as searching the OPAC and/or databases in libraries.
  • The coming effects and implications of advances in biotech, nanotech, etc.: While these don’t necessarily have an immediate impact libraries, they are bound to some time in the future.
  • The rapid growth of personal computing storage space: When the personal terabyte of storage is finally available to the average consumer, what will it mean for libraries? What will the world look like when this is available as a portable device? How will it affect the digitization that libraries are currently doing, as well as personal digitization? What effect will this have on the profession of librarianship, or digital preservation?
  • The wider availability of video chat reference, with the advent of meebo which allows the tracking of who’s on a library page and being able to talk to them.
  • The coming convergence of technologies like RFID, personal devices, global positioning, and even financial credit ratings, which allow proximity based services so that you can get things when you need it: A group member mentioned the potential for a service that would ring your cell phone when you’re close to an item that you’ve been searching for: “It’s currently down on the lowest shelf to your left.” Of course, a natural discussion ensued on the privacy issues this raises. One member also noted that in the RFID Interest Group it was discussed that the Australians and Europeans don’t understand our compunctions for personal privacy. A group member joked about the potential for a “You touched it, you bought it” situation to general laughter.
  • The IG also talked about our potential extension of service roles into personal information management: What influence do we have on how people access and store their personal information. Are we involved in this, or should we be?
  • On Net Neutrality – is the issue really neutrality or is this simply a build-out period for the web? What are the implications for libraries?
  • On Scholarly Communication and Zotero, is there potential for building a recommendation engine on top of these structures? Would it be subscription based and what would be the implications of that?
  • Are there Health implications for wireless service? Will librarians be forced to resign from their jobs because of it?
  • Examples of implementations combining geo-coordinates with OPACs.

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