Top Technology Trends

Karen Coombs' Top Technology Trends

This year at ALA will be my first appearance as part of the LITA Top Tech Trends panel. Since I was asked to be part of TTT 2 months ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about the possible trends I want to talk about. Many possible trend topics have gone through my head. However, I realize with ALA fast approaching that I’m only really going to get 5 minutes to talk about my trends. So if I want to do them justice, really I can only talk about 3 things.

That being said, I thought it might be worthwhile if I posted here trends that have caught my eye / crossed my mind. KGS has done something similar to this with her trends in the past and I like the discussion it sparks. Below are a few trends that have been kicking about in my head.

  • Proliferation of Open Source Software
    Open Source Software is growing in importance and presence in people’s lives. Firefox now claims about 16% of the browser market. Dell now allows users to choose Ubuntu as the operating system on their PC. A greater number of libraries are considering open source ILSs such as Evergreen and Koha. The really startling fact though is the number of universities and colleges that are investing in open source solutions for their enterprise systems. Sakai, Kuali, JASIG are all examples of open source systems being developed and used by universities. According to a 2007 article in Educause Review, open source system have a number of advantages including the fact that they unbundle software and support, and put developers closer to user in the development process. In addition to the growth of open source systems in higher education, there has also been a growth of organization providing support for open source systems. In the library world this includes Equinox, and Liblime who both provide support for open source ILSs.
  • Dominance of XML for data transmission
    MARC XML, METS, MODS, and SOAP; XML has become THE solution for moving data around. Most web services available from commercial sites use XML. Additionally, web services for library systems also use XML. The bottom line is if you are a librarian who works with the web or in technical services you had better get fluent in XML.
  • End User as Content Producer
    Currently more than 62% of all US households own digital cameras. Ownership of digital video cameras has also steadily grown. Flickr,, YouTube and other web-based services offer a place for users to store and share their content. However, what happens if these services disappear? Who is taking responsibility for preserving the cultural memory of our society in digital format? The Internet Archive and Our Media hopes to do some of this but if users experiences are anything like those of librarian David Free, then they are likely to go elsewhere. What can libraries do to collect digital objects of value to local history and cultural memory? One possibility is what is being done by the National Library of Australia as part of the Picture Australia Project.
  • Web is more interactive and collaborative
    Even if you set Flickr, YouTube, aside the web is STILL changing the way we consume media in dramatic ways. According to a survey done study from Motorola 45% of Europeans watch TV online. More an more network television shows are hitting the web. The major networks are streaming shows (albeit only the previous week’s episode) and making episodes (or the entire season) available for purchase on iTunes. The BBC signed a deal with BitTorrent client producer Azereus to distribute content. Amazon is in the game with the Unbox and Netflix allows you to view movies over the web as well now. There are streaming services for music and movies and VoIP services have cropped up everywhere. Virtual programming for librarian is abound with regular free Sirsi Dynix institutes and OPAL events. Let’s not forget the virtual worlds of Second Life, and World of Warcraft. What does all this mean for how we as librarians interact with library users? Better yet what does it mean for how we interact with each other, provide programming, and learning opportunities?
  • Bye Bye Privacy (ubiquitous personal data)
    Websites are collecting more and more data on users in order to provided personalized reccomendations and customized services. keeps track of users reading preferences. Netflix keeps track of what subscribers rent. In addition to data collected for personalizing services, more and more people are putting personal information about their lives on the internet via Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube and other social software. In an era where personalization is expected libraries cannot provide users with meaningful services if we are hamstrung by the current professional policies and ethics regarding privacy. Also users need serious education when it comes to making informed choices about their personal privacy.
  • Digital as the format of choice
    Whether it is full-text articles, E-reserves, audio, or video, more and more users prefer and expect to get their content in digital format. The popularity of iTunes and music subscription services like Pandora have demonstrated that users are willing to deal with the problems of DRM or pay a monthly subscription fee to get instant access to content. In addition to music, other types of media are now being made available in digital format, via either a purchase or pay-per-view model. iTunes now includes TV shows and movies. There are also services such as Joost, and Babelgum, which leverage an on-demand model that allows users to have access to content for a limited amount of time.
    One area where the digital format hasn’t caught on particularly well is ebooks. However, we should be careful not to mistake this as a love for traditional books but rather an intense dislike for the current klunky options for reading ebooks. Digital formats have many distinct advantages for users. They allow on-demand, instant gratification. Additionally, digital content doesn’t consume physical space, which allows users to have a virtually limitless collection of content. Libraries have to find ways to adapt their services to this new paradigm. This means providing digital content on demand to users instead of lending movies and CDs.
  • Converged Mobile Devices
    It isn’t a new thing that mobile devices aren’t just phones anymore. Apple’s iPhone has many competitors including the Samsung Upstage. All of these phone feature a touch screen, MP3 player, and a host of other applications. While the rant about small screen size still is circulating, more and more web applications are making themselves friendly to the small screen. How do libraries to the same for their tools and resources so we can effectively deliver information to users on these devices?
  • Line between desktop and web applications obliterated
    Desktop applications have hit the web. Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Zoho, Peepel, Zimbra, and ShareMethods all provide Office like functionality. In addition, applications for editing multimedia for cropped up as well. Snipshot, Picnik, Jumpcut, and YouTube remixer, provide the basic functionality available in parts of Adobe’s suite. GoogleGears blurs the line between web-based and desktop based news aggregators. Additionally, who needs an external hard drive or thumb drive you can get 4GB of storage on the web at Box. Need more space? Check out Amazon’s S3. Another interesting phenomenon is Webtops and WebOSs such as EyeOS, Desktoptwo, Craythur, Goowy.

As I said I won’t be talking about all these trends as part of the panel, but I think all are worth readers thinking about for a few minutes. I have a pretty good idea which trends I’m going to highlight at the panel itself, but feel free to ask me about the ones I don’t discuss in detail at the panel by posting a comment here or asking at the Top Tech Trends panel Sunday.


  1. Rami

    I like the analysis and I would like to invite you to check out at another related trend which is growing rapidly toward a full web operating sysTem. is developing the Global Hosted Operating System to bring a common desktop, file system and sign-in to the Web 2.0 applications. is already in public alpha and will be upgrading this to a full public beta during the summer.


  2. Pingback: Open Libraries » Blog Archive » ALA 2007: Top Tech Trends

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