LITA’s Top Tech Trends

Tech futurists assess the state of library-related technology

June 27, 2016

Three panelists from Sunday’s Top Tech Trends program. From left: Lauren Comito, Laura Costello, and Nick Grove
Three panelists from Sunday’s Top Tech Trends program. From left: Lauren Comito, Laura Costello, and Nick Grove

The panel assembled by ALA’s Library Information Technology Association (LITA) for its Top Tech Trends predictions on Sunday afternoon had its work cut out for it. Not only was it the division’s 50th anniversary, but moderator Maurice Coleman, tech trainer at Harford County (Md.) Library, put panelists through a lightning pace with questions worthy of the McLaughlin Group.

The panelists were Blake Carver, LYRASIS; Lauren Comito, Queens (N.Y.) Library; Laura Costello, Stony Brook (N.Y.) University; Carolyn Coulter, PrairieCat Library Consortium; and Nick Grove, Meridian (Idaho) Library District.

Here are some of the questions:

What is the next top tech trend?

  • Comito: Teaching underlying concepts, not specific devices.
  • Costello: Real-time library data: What are patrons’ favorite chairs? Is the library busy now?
  • Grove: Virtual reality and how it will play out in libraries.
  • Coulter: Balancing access and privacy.
  • Carver: Super-fast, super-easy app development; huge, cross-platform software that anyone can design and implement.

What is on the horizon in IT privacy and security?

  • Carver: Terror. Ransomware, because there is big money behind that. The slow but welcome disappearance of Flash and Java.
  • Coulter: Every public library I’ve worked in has common logins at all their branches. It will be painful to get rid of these file-shares. We must educate our administrators as well as our patrons.
  • Grove: Confusing lingo that makes file backup sound horrendously intimidating when it is not. Simpler communications from IT.
  • Costello: Telling vendors that some of their features put our patrons at risk.

Should libraries develop their own tools to meet their specific needs?

  • Costello: Don’t be afraid to develop and manage tech stuff in academic libraries. Get the right people on board. It’s better to involve library staff in tool development right from the beginning.
  • Coulter: IT leadership should understand that people in other departments might have good skill sets that are useful. Leadership needs to rethink their tech ownership.

What are some creative ways that leadership can integrate tech for library outreach?

  • Coulter: Circulate hotspots. People have their own devices but not the bandwidth.
  • Comito: I’ve seen a patron with a Queens hotspot clipped to her backpack that she used for email and web access.
  • Grove: Library tech should be ready to go where the patrons are. We can show them how to use technologies remotely.

What technologies should libraries be using to improve tech literacy?

  • Coulter: Tech petting zoos.
  • Comito: Little round robots (Sphero) to overcome tech fears. When tech is cute, it’s easier to incorporate.
  • Grove: We’ve had a good response to those robots.
  • Costello: We often loan programmable robots to faculty for educational programs.
  • Coulter: But make sure you use mobile device management software to clean off devices when they are returned.

What are the most useless trends?

  • Carver: Ten years ago I would have said Facebook. Two years ago I would have said Snapchat.
  • Comito: Don’t teach patrons how to code. Teach them wider concepts.
  • Costello: Yik Yak, the anonymous commentary app, is useless. Just don’t pay attention to what students are saying on it.
  • Grove: In the short term, the “internet of things” is an overstated trend. It will not be as big as the current marketing efforts proclaim.
  • Coleman: Data on the internet of things is very insecure, quite salable, and compromises privacy.
  • Carver: Shodan, a search engine for the internet of things, shows just how bad its security is.

What technologies are you sick of hearing about?

  • Coulter: 3D printers.
  • Grove: Yes, that’s a consensus for 3D printers.
  • Comito: Smart watches.