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How Should the Library Sector Respond to Predictions of Technological Developments?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31 Oct 2011

On Thursday I presented a short paper entitled “What’s on the Technology Horizon?” at the ILI 2011 conference. The paper, which is available in MS Word format, described initial work of the JISC Observatory which led to the publication of the Technology Outlook: UK Tertiary Education report.

The paper summarised the findings of the report (which are illustrated)  including the technological developments which have (now) arrived; developments which are expected to have a time-to-adoption horizon of two to three years and those with an expected time-to-adoption horizon of four to five years.

The focus of the short paper and the accompanying presentation at the ILI 2011 conference was “how should the sector respond to such predictions?”  Since I was expecting significant numbers of participants in the  session to have mobile devices I intended to encourage the participants to contribute their thoughts on how the library sector should be responding.  When the response to my question “How many of you have smart phones or table computers?” showed positive responses for over 90% of those present I was hopeful that we would be able to crowd-source suggestions for appropriate actions in preparing for the technological developments.

As shown below, I provided some examples of how I might expect libraries to be preparing for technological developments which should now have arrived, with each brief sentence being provided in a form suitable for tweeting.

Area Actions

Mobile and Tablet Computing

Personal use of mobile phones & tablets in order to gain experiences of new working practices; experiences of accessing library services, etc. Update Acceptable Use Policies to address use of mobile devices. Update Web developments tools and standards to ensure mobile access is treated as ‘first class citizen’.

Cloud Computing

Staff development to provide better understanding of Cloud Computing concepts and implications. Update Acceptable Use Policies to address use of cloud services. Ensure potential risks are understood as well as opportunities. Develop risk minimisation strategies.

Open Content

Staff development to provide better understanding of open data as well as open access including licensing issues for open content.  Understand personal and organisational barriers to provision of open content as well as consuming open content.  Seek ways in which the Library can provide open content.

Table 2: Actions for developments for today’s technologies

If each of the hundred of so participants in the room could tweet one or two similar summaries, I suggested, we would have a significant resource based on suggestions from practitioning librarians and information professions. This would be particularly valuable for those technological developments which may not yet be impacting on daily activities which are listed below:



Game-Based Learning

Learning Analytics

New Scholarship

Semantic Applications

Table 3: Actions for developments expected to be adopted in two to three years



Augmented Reality

Collective Intelligence

Smart Objects


Table 4: Actions for developments expected to be adopted in four to five years

I had hoped that, following the talk by Åke Nygren who was giving an alternative view of the future, we would have time available to actively solicit feedback from the audience. Unfortunately due to technical difficulties Åke’s talk overran and we didn’t have time to discuss the ways in which libraries should be responding to these predictions.  In addition I was unable to record a video of my talk due to the video application on my camera stopping after my camera received an SMS alert :-(

I have captured the tweets about my talk using Storify which has tweets from the following 15 Twitterers @StarseekR, @karenblakeman, @librarygirlknit, @daveyp, @mstephens7, @SoullaStylianou@joeyanne, @psychemedia, @ujlibscience, @cybrgrl, @abbybarker, @issip, @jennye, @jannicker and @katelomax.  One  tweet commented:

RT @abbybarker #ili2011 #a101 I have two mobile devices with me and neither if them are connecting to the wifi properly! Ditto.

In retrospect I think I was too ambitious in seeking to use small group exercises which are more suited to a workshop session than a short presentation, with the limited time and technical delays conspiring against me. However perhaps a blog post can provide the opportunity for feedback which wasn’t forthcoming during my talk.  My question, then is, what actions are you taking today in response to the technologies which seen now to be mainstream and those which are expected to arrive in the next two to five years?

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