This is my first foray into the top technology trends arena. I am not at ALA this time around – see http://flickr.com/photos/frumkin for the reason why – I hope you find the reason a good excuse 🙂 – but I will try and add to the conversation here. Due to my new time commitments, I won’t be able to discuss all the areas that I find interesting, but I will relate three topics here.
There is quite a deal of activity happening within discovery-to-delivery (D2D). OCLC’s WorldCat local has produced a big splash with its initial release at the University of Washington, and I expect that OCLC will leverage the WorldCat data to help provide better and more consistent access to information, at least information that falls within the world of information OCLC provides. Other efforts, such as the University of Rochester’s eXtensible Catalog project, my own institution’s LibraryFind, and a variety of vendor-based products are also taking aim to provide better discovery and delivery systems to libraries. It should be noted, though, that despite the continued development of new and better technology to facilitate unified discovery, there is still the basic issue of the business models behind content provision to libraries. Current licensing agreements and cost models do not lend themselves to unified discovery through libraries; database providers may or may not even provide access to their collections in ways that a metasearch or federated search tool can take advantage, and often, when they do, the flexibility of access is often limited by the protocol (Z39.50, for example) supported. In order for there to be true disruptive change for D2D in libraries, both libraries and information providers must come up with a new business model which supports better access to information while maintaining a balanced economic environment which serves both communities.
There is also the beginnings of a trend to move beyond D2D, and to look at how users manipulate the information they acquire. Zotero is one example of a tool developed to address users’ abilities to store, organize, and use information. Zotero will most likely continue to grow in popularity, and it is quite likely that similar products, some client-side, some server-side, will appear in the near future. The evolving expectations of users will make it a necessity for libraries to provide them with tools and services that go beyond the provision of information and enable their ability to work with information.
Finally, I see a number of events which may indicate that the ways users interact with technology will see some major changes. Products such as the iPhone and the Nintendo Wii will start to drive user interface design and user experience beyond it’s current paradigm. The keyboard / mouse experience that most of us have taken as the norm may start to be challenged in its monopoly; new technologies such as multi-touch or the technology behind Wiimotes (the “joysticks” for the Wii), along with the increase of devices using new display technologies such as e-ink / e-paper, will help create new tools that users will first want, and then later need. Certain immersive environments, such as 2nd Life, may also provide suitable playing grounds for experimenting with new UI paradigms, though it is more likely that disruptive change in this area will come from real world devices rather than a virtual environment whose experience is limited by current real-world technology.