Written by Tony Nguyen, Emerging Technologies/Communications Coordinator, National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM), Southeastern/Atlantic Region (SE/A). Contact Tony at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Media Consortium recently released the Horizon Report, 2015 Library Edition that identifies trends, challenges, and emerging technologies. The report is designed to examine new technologies and determine their potential impact on academic and research libraries worldwide. In review of the new report and comparing it to the 2014 Report, the following new points were discovered:
Important Developments in Technology for Academic and Research Libraries
The following new tools and technologies were identified that will likely drive planning over the next several years.
- Makerspaces – Makerspaces give educators an opportunity to engage learners in creative, higher-order problem solving through self-directed design, construction, and iteration. While academic libraries are undergoing significant change, the addition of a makerspace may solidify the library as a hub for students to access, create, and engage in hands-on projects.
- Online Learning – Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have reopened the topic of online learning. Libraries can help facilitate the future of online learning by assisting with media production, connecting to special collections, and curating content.
- Information Visualization – Researchers and scientists seek new formats that enable them to present complex datasets in a comprehensive manner. A number of skills (aside from technical skills to utilize creative software) were identified with information visualization: data analysis, design thinking, and contextual, inquiry-based exploration.
- Location Intelligence – A growing facet of location intelligence is location-based services that will provide content customized according to the users’ location. The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, for example, assisted in the creation of a Study Buddy app. This app allows students, through secure authentication, the ability to check-in on their phone, use location data to share their coordinates, and find classroom peers to quickly form a study group.
- Machine Learning – Speech recognition and semantic applications utilize machine learning that can not only input, retrieve, and interpret data but also learn from it. A number of companies are developing self-service data preparation software that learns and improves based on users’ interactions. Artificial intelligence could assist by mining data and adjusting library services in real time.
While the technologies listed aren’t necessarily new, innovative approaches have either made them new again or have brought them into the realm of academic and research libraries. There are a number of reasons these technologies could support or impede adoption within libraries. The following new points were identified to drive planning and decision-making or impede adoption of new technologies if left unresolved:
Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption in Academic and Research Libraries
- Rethinking Library Spaces – A number of libraries are expanding to make room for active learning classrooms, media production studios, makerspaces, and other changes conducive to hands-on work.
- Increasing Value of the User Experience (UX) – User experience is a common term utilized by companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Google. Designing high-quality experiences to help researchers and students navigate massive amounts of data and attract new patrons is a new area for libraries to develop and improve.
Challenges Impeding Technology Adoption in Academic and Research Libraries
- Improving Digital Literacy – A lack of a consensus on what comprises digital literacy has hindered many libraries from developing adequate policies and programs that address the development of this competency.
- Managing Knowledge Obsolescence – The rate at which information, software tools, and devices improve and change is exponential. Librarians need the ability and desire to constantly pursue and absorb new technologies and skills.
This review highlighted topics not covered in the 2014 report. There are a number of trends and challenges to consider should your organization consider adopting a new technology within your library. I encourage you to download the Horizon Report, 2015 Library Edition and explore these topics and more in greater detail.