One of the dangers of having “Emerging Technologies Librarian” as your job title is that as soon as you introduce yourself as such in non-library circles, someone inevitably asks you something like, “So, what’s the latest and newest technology in libraries?” as if there is one simple answer to that question. I was recently asked that question by the head of IT at my institution, and I had this panicked moment where I felt immense pressure to come up with a really good, impressive answer. I thought about maker spaces, 3D printers, digital repositories, data mining, RDA, the semantic web, web-scale discovery, and all the custom apps and programs that brilliant librarians across the world are working on to make library collections and services easier to find, access, and use. And then I thought about the “technology” questions I answer on a daily basis at my institution, such as what an Internet browser is; how to download a PDF and save it; how to print; how to connect to the wireless network; how to access and use an e-book; and how to navigate the various library resources to find books, articles, and other resources for coursework.
In the end, because we are in the process of migrating systems and implementing our first “web-scale discovery” system, I told our IT director about web-scale discovery and said that indexing and search algorithms in these proprietary systems were the happening areas in our corner of libraryland at the moment. Instead of meeting with glazed-over eyes, this actually led to an interesting conversation about how these systems are different from Google and the various publishing and aggregator’s licenses libraries have to navigate to get to full-text content.
Walking away from the conversation, though, I continued to think about the question of emerging technologies. Different libraries have vastly different technology landscapes. Our population is relatively non-savvy when it comes to technology. We have a lot of older students and students coming from backgrounds where they haven’t had reliable access to computers, the Internet or smart phones. They aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, much less Pinterest or Instagram. This makes our “emerging technologies” specific to our population – and very different from the popular perceptions of the latest and greatest technology. I suspect this is true of a lot of two-year schools.
So, I’m interested to know – what are your institution’s “emerging technologies”?