Top Tech Trends MW10

January 18, 2010

LITA's Top Tech Trends was interesting to me this year because its participants, while all formidable representatives of the world of cutting edge library tech geeks, were all new to the panel:

David Walker kicked off the discussion by talking about discovery layers, a top trend indeed. Although their growth is somewhat slowed by the economy, Walker predicts they will soon hit small to medium-sized libraries. As DLs grow, they'll help mature and facilitate other library services by bringing data together in one index. But the nature of DLs means there will be more and more data coming into that one place, and right now it's a numbers race among providers to see who can index the most databases and get the fastest results. Soon librarians and users will ask "how big is too big."

Amanda Etches-Johnson spoke on user experience design—a well-known but relatively new concept in other spheres that gained a lot of ground in 2009 in libraries, with, among other things, Amanda's co-founding INFLUX, a UX design agency targeting libraries. Amanda predicted that as more libraries begin hiring UX staffers, standards could emerge for UX within the profession. She also noted that the push toward putting content on mobile devices necessitates better UX design, in that with mobile devices developers are forced to give users the simplest access to data possible. As mobile access to data continues to saturate libraries, location-aware apps will improve the patron experience in libraries and also lead to more collaboration between UX strategy on the web and on-site at a library. But, she warned, mobile saturation shouldn't change the soul of libraries.

Lauren Pressley talked about augmented reality, or, the blending of physical and virtual environments, as a great tool for learning or microlearning. She perceived this to be such a new topic for librarians that she took a sizable chunk of her time just explaining the concept and giving some examples. As AR gains ground in libraries, it could  enhance physical stacks browsing by adding additional navigation information and virtual "signage" to mobile devices. Libraries could also use AR outside the library by creating interactive learning tools surrounding a community's historical landmarks. As with UX, standards will be useful in AR if it's ever going to take hold.

Joe Murphy discussed mobile apps as a research gateway. SMS, he said, is the oldest and most popular of all the means of mobile communication, and the protocol has exploded in libraries in the past year, with services like Text a Librarian. Mobile apps provide a next step in the progress toward mobile gateways, and somewhere beyond content delivery via mobile devices comes geolocation technology on mobile devices. Geolocation-based gaming, such as foursquare, adds a new layer to traditional discovery tools, making them both social and location-aware. How can this be used in libraries? For marketing, according to Murphy. 

Jason Griffey talked about mobile access to data in libraries. The growth of mobile apps is like nothing the computer world has ever seen. But mobile apps will take a dive when HTML 5 and CSS 3 gain ground. That's because the new versions of these web markup and style languages will be much more germaine to publishing to the mobile web and will allow for app-like interfaces to exist within a mobile browser. This will be the death of the app, acoording to Griffey. Developers will realize that they can develop one interface with multiple iterations for different types of devices and ultimately reduce duplication of effort.