#toptech #ala2009

July 13, 2009

LITA's tenth year of Top Tech Trends July 12 was likely its best attended ever–thanks to free wi-fi in the room, live streaming video from Shanachies, and a live blog to aggregate tweets from attendees (real and virtual) using hashtags #toptech and #ttt09 or giving comments or questions directly on the blog. While ALA is working hard to increase virtual participation, Top Tech Trends was more focused on being online than getting online.

It's part of our life and part of our culture right now,” said panelist John Blyberg, referring to the ubiquity of mobile devices, including smart phones and sub-laptops, and mobile internet access. That sentiment echoed much of the discourse, with Joan Frye Williams later moving beyond discussion of the digital divide by noting that more people have cellular phones now than have ever had computers. The first trend, mobile computing, virtual computing, and the cloud, ranked highest on LITA's survey and was the first topic the panel discussed. The environment (green computing) was the lowest ranked topic.

Despite the trend toward mobile computing, the transformation will be a long one, argued Roy Tennent, and people will still rely on laptops and desktops alongside mobile devices for a long time. “We haven't seen the killer netbook yet,” he said

Mobile computing is bringing about a shift from text-based content to photo and video content, remarked Clifford Lynch. It's much easier to generate and handle photos and videos on mobile devices than to generate prose.

The presenters agreed that the cloud is prominent in today's computing. Clifford Lynch argued for contrasting access from computation: that is, heavy computation takes place in the cloud while access is distributed to client interfaces. Lynch fears, however, that relying on the cloud leaves off one core aspect of librarianship. "Part of our self-defined responsibility is the collection and preservation of material. But if it's out in the cloud, libraries are not preserving; someone else is," said Lynch.

The ubiquity of the cloud means that finding stuff isn't a problem anymore, according to Lynch. Information is everywhere, but "we're drinking out of the firehose," he said. Librarians will be responsible for managing the flow of that information.

Open source software was the second topic of discussion for the panel. Eric Lease Morgan stepped back from common notions that OSS will lead to free everything. There will be some institutions willing to take on their IT and software management; others won't, he argued. OSS and open access won't put publisher's out of business. "We don't have the chutzpa," Morgan said.

Williams suggested that librarians are a shrinking market for publishers, who are moving toward individual customers. "End users are less fussy," she said, noting that EBSCO underwrites NPR. Blyberg agreed but added that our front-end interfaces are advancing far beyond our back-end content, calling for better federated search.

The session ended with a rapid-fire session where each panelist had three to five minutes to talk about the variety of technology trends to watch. See the complete discussion and video.