Technology Innovation and Impact Strand at ILI 2014
On Tuesday 21 October 2014 I am giving a talk at the ILI 2014 conference which will address the question What are the major technology trends that will impact library services and their users? This talk takes place on the morning of Tuesday 21 October 2014, the opening day of the conference and is the first talk in Track B, the Technology Innovation and Impact strand, one of the three conference tracks.
The NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition
The talk will be based on the approaches taken by the NMC Horizon team in the development of the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition, a 50-page report which “examines key trends, significant challenges, and emerging technologies for their potential impact on academic and research libraries worldwide“.
I was pleased to have been invited to participate in the expert panel which took part in the NMC’s process for identifying the key emerging technologies and the significant trends which are driving their adoption and the challenges which may impede their take-up.
The report describes 18 topics which the expert panel identified as very likely to impact technology planning and decision-making: six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in technology.
In my 30 minute talk I will review two technologies which the panel feel to be significant ion the short term (less than a year to adoption), two trends driving technology adoption in the medium term (3 to 5 years) and two difficult challenges which may impede technology adoption in academic and research libraries.
Since the report is freely available online (in PDF format) I do not feel that simply summarising details form the report will be the most effective use of the session at ILI 2014. Instead I will describe the ‘Delphi; approaches used by the panel in identifying and then ranking the key trends, challenges and technological developments. I intend to then invite the audience to participate in a mini-Delphi process, whereby they can add their thoughts on technological developments of importance in the short term, trends driving technology adoption in the medium term and difficult challenges which may impede technology adoption in academic and research libraries which may have not been prioritised in the NMC Horizon report.
I intend to gather the suggestions during the talk, using a combination of asking the audience for their suggestions and inviting suggestions on Twitter. This will be followed by a quick vote to identify the responses which the audience feel are most important.
Attempting to reduce the Delphi process for which “over the course of three months in the spring of 2014, the 2014 Horizon Project Library Expert Panel came to a consensus about the topics that would appear here in the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition” will be a challenge and we shouldn’t attempt to read too much into the findings. However the purpose of this approach, rather than taking the safer route of simply summarizing the report, is to make the point that one should not simply accept the findings of a report on technological developments which experts feel will have an impact on the sector. Instead I feel that institutions should use the report to inform institutional planning which should be complemented by identification of developments which are of particular relevance in the context of the host institution’s local context, including local political, economic, social and technological factors.
What Do You Think Is Missing?
Since soliciting user responses in a large conference auditorium may prove challenging I would like to invite contributions to this post, in advance of this talk.
I will report on the technological trends which the NMC Horizon report feels will be important in the short term (less than a year to adoption). These are (with a summary taken from the 2 page report for each area being provided):
- Electronic publishing: Electronic publishing is creating a sea change in how people consume media, research, news and stories. Digital assets such as video, images, and audio can be easily deployed in a variety of media formats — a notion that has huge implications for expanding the reach of a library’s content and the dissemination of academic research. Libraries are poised to be major players in the digital revolution as academic electronic publishing becomes more sophisticated. While the PDF format (now an open ISO standard) has long been supported in libraries, closed systems, such as Apple’s iBook and Amazon e-books, are posing challenges to their existing publishing workflows. EPUB 3, a new standard for interactive and media-enhanced e-books, offers many opportunities for electronic publishing and new library content services,207 but there are still no user-friendly tools available for library professionals to aid the process. The emergence of open access policies from government agencies, coupled with unsustainable costs of print and citation cycles, has led to a shift in how education institutions publish. There is now motivation for libraries to take resources that are generated locally, including university research outputs, learning objects, and material digitized by faculty, and turn them into teaching materials as new publications. Among the chief considerations for libraries establishing such e-publishing workflows are storage capacity, comprehensive concepts for linking the scientific working process of text and scientific data, software tools that integrate and visualize complex data, copyright issues, bibliometric tools, and content hosting coordination.
- Mobile apps: With the advent of mobile apps, the way we think about software itself is changing, and whole industries are adjusting to a new world in which sophisticated but
simple tools routinely sell for 99 cents or are completely free. In contrast with the model for desktop applications that stack feature upon feature in a one-size-fits-all
approach, mobile apps are small, simple, and elegant. They generally do one thing, or a small list of tightly related things, extraordinarily well. They cost so little, trial versions are unnecessary, and it is simple to outfit a tablet or mobile phone with exactly the feature set one wants for far less than one would pay for typical desktop software.
I will also describe the trends driving technology adoption in the medium term (3-5 years):
- The evolving nature of the scholarly record: With the advent of mobile apps, the way we think about software itself is changing, and whole industries are adjusting to a new world in which sophisticated but simple tools routinely sell for 99 cents or are completely free. In contrast with the model for desktop applications that stack feature upon feature in a one-size-fits-all approach, mobile apps are small, simple, and elegant. They generally do one thing, or a small list of tightly related things, extraordinarily well. They cost so little, trial versions are unnecessary, and it is simple to outfit a tablet or mobile phone with exactly the feature set one wants for far less than one would pay for typical desktop software.
- The increasing accessibility of research content: Academic and research libraries are gradually embracing the movement toward openness as the Internet has opened the floodgates of information and scientific knowledge. The open access movement has been an influential element of this trend, and it has a significant following in the library community among those who believe in removing financial and intellectual barriers for scholarly work. Major funding entities such as the UK’s Research Excellence Framework, the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health have implemented guidelines requiring researchers to include dissemination plans for their data along with their outputs, expanding access to encompass all scientific outputs. A number of libraries are opening up their institutional repositories, allowing the general public to access their research. Several journal publishers are meeting institutions halfway by developing novel payment schemes that are based on region or quantity of outputs. More collaboration is taking place between institutions as they work co-operatively to lower costs within the publication process.
My talk will conclude by mentioning the difficult challenges which have been identified (note that the challenges have been categorised as (1) solvable challenges: those that we understand and know how to solve ; (2) difficult challenges: those that we understand but for which solutions are elusive and (3) wicked challenges: those that are complex to even define, much less address):
- Capturing and archiving the digital outputs of research as collection material: One of the essential purposes of academic and research libraries has been to collect the outputs of academic research. Traditionally this has consisted of collecting textual, audio, video, and image-based outputs. With the introduction of new digitally-generated materials and processes, research outputs are growing in variety and types of format. It is important for these new digital data sets to be preserved alongside the research derived from them for future use and in longitudinal studies, but this presents a perpetual challenge for library acquisition and archiving practices as formats continue to evolve. The shift to new materials and processes has not only affected how material is
captured and archived, but also how it is accessed and retrieved by other researchers and the general public.
- Competition from alternative avenues of discovery: Before the rise of the Internet, libraries were widely perceived as the ultimate gateways to
knowledge. However according to a faculty survey conducted by Ithaka S+R, the information gateway function of the library is declining. Wikipedia, contains nearly five million content articles and over 33 million pages and although sceptics caution that Wikipedia is not a credible resource for academic research and writing projects the sheer number of registered users (21.5 million) indicates a shift in where people are going for information, for convenience and ease of use. Online environments such as Google Scholar and the Web of Knowledge curate data from multiple sources. Academic and research libraries are in the difficult position of having to compete with these channels. However rather than regarding such trends as a concerns for libraries, some library organisations are using the changing environment as an opportunity to adapt and even partner with these platforms.
I’d welcome your thoughts on technological trends which will be important for libraries in the short term; trends driving technology adoption in the medium term and the difficult challenges which impede technology adoption.
Or course if you’d like to make other comments, ask questions or would like to suggest, and perhaps even provide answers, for the wicked challenges facing libraries, feel free to make them!
Note that the slides to be used at the talk are available on Slideshare and embedded below.