By Everaldo Coelho (YellowIcon) [LGPL (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Everaldo Coelho (YellowIcon) [LGPL (], via Wikimedia Commons
My original idea for was to do a little crystal ball gazing, but looking at projected trends for next year, the landscape seems to be more a progression of existing technology rather than new technology.  So maybe it is more akin to shaking the Magic 8 Ball – will it work? How well? How can libraries capitalize on this technology? Now that  the Internet is a quarter of a century old now, maybe it’s time for technology to truly work for us. Signs point to yes? We’ll see.

So, big things to come out in the next few months: Windows 10 (yeah, the start menu is back and we’re skipping 9) and if the rampant rumors are correct the long awaited Apple Watch will be in the spring (lot of smart watches already, can it steal the market?).

The Mobile revolution continues: Phones, Phablets, & more Bigger is well… bigger (and more glass to break). Now for those of us with an Android device with Gorilla Glass (I just dropped my phone on concrete in mud – it’s fine), many of us are glad that a giant bombproof box is not a mandatory accessory. Rumors of the Iphone 7 are already swirling with some predicting Sapphire Glass (potentially more indestructible than Gorilla Glass) and a smaller phone.  If all of that happens, perhaps, I will be swayed to the Iphone side yet!  Then there are the smart watches and other smart devices – some only receive and some can make calls or text, too (more on those later in this post).  So, you may not even need your phone to use your phone!  Combine that with a continuing shift to mobile as the primary screen and one can see why having a large phone that serves as a tablet is useful. It seems likely that libraries will see more patrons using mobile as their primary access point to library resources, including websites, databases like those in GALILEO, ebooks, and more.

What does this mean for libraries? More platforms to consider when designing services or acquiring digital resources, more questions from patrons regarding their technology, more staff training in technology, but also new opportunities for more outreach programming and engaging new, but also, new ways to engage users.

Computers: Although touchscreens and hybrid laptop-tablet (also called hybrids or convertibles)  seem so 2004, at least there are more choices now. Currently, there are 3 main types of hybrids ranging on a spectrum from more tablet>more laptop.  On the “more tablet” side, are those that keyboard is not attached physically. These might use a bluetooth keyboard (many tablets such as Samsung, Kindle Fire, etc.) or  use magnets to “snap” the keyboard in place (Microsoft Surface, but also so in the Sony line). In the middle category (part tablet, part laptop) are those “tablets” where the keyboard is attached physically but snaps in/out (Toshiba, HP have some of this design).  When testing out convertibles, I found the ones with a physical keyboard that “snaps” were clunky and hard to use. The third category of hybrids, are those where the keyboard is permanently affixed, but the screen twists, rotates, or flips to provide more of a tablet experience (Dell, Lenova Yoga) . Although the Lenova Yoga had some drawbacks in design, in terms of weight (1.9 lbs!), hardware, and a “real” keyboard, it was the hands down winner for me. So, just remember to ask yourself 2 things when shopping for these: 1) What is your primary use? 2)What functionality do you need?

Death of the Desktop (?) While the desktop won’t entirely disappear especially in areas where sharing a laptop is just not feasible, 3-in-1s (no tower) will really rule in the future. The exception: specialized industries and consumers who need a tower for some reason.

What does this mean for libraries? More users with laptops or hybrids, which may help ease the burden of computer usage in libraries (but create increase demands for Wi-FI). Additionally, 3-in-1s, even those with a large screen, take up less physical space, which may benefit libraries with limited space. Touch screens can facilitate new services and programs – allowing users to “draw” or design using a stylus, “write” in their own hand writing, or assist in providing a more adaptive interface for those with manual dexterity issues limiting keyboard or mouse use.

Social Media is less social (?) Not really, but it’s going to be different. Ello is slow to catch on and no one seems to be able to take on Facebook (which is being abandoned by some demographics anyhow). Facebook is scaling back on promotional content by pages and “organic” reach seems to be decreasing at Facebook. Instagram (now owned by Facebook) and  SnapChat which allows photos and video to disappear quickly (in theory, no digital trail) is hugely popular. Both support private communications via image sharing with no need to use a “real” name (see Google+, Facebook).  So, have we learned to be careful about what we post online in social spaces? Maybe, a little.  No doubt there will be continue to be social media controversies, but it is not quite the wild west it used to be. Many groups are forming code of ethics  and/or conduct (including ALA) for physical and/or online communities. Cyber bullying, stalking, trolling, doxing, are all topics in the news. So, there is still work to be done, as the internet becomes more diverse, it also needs to become inclusive.

What does this mean for libraries? Libraries engaging in social space will need to continue to tell their story and engage their communities in creative and interesting ways.  Some ideas: Create hashtags in instagram for specific events, book clubs, contests. Use flickr to feature digitized vintage photos. If you have photos that are of unknown people or places, ask for community help.  Post content from outside of Facebook to Facebook and utilize native tools within the various social media sites. Tumblr can be a fun way to highlight reading or teen programs.  Look at memes, trending topics, and viral videos to see if your library can participate and how.  In terms of the dark side of the web, libraries have worked hard for many years to be very inclusive, serving ALL patrons. Library programming often includes these topics but we should continue to support positive initiatives within our own profession, as well, as those by others.

3D printing in the consumer market: Home Depot is selling Makerbot 3D printers and 3D printing is projected to be a 16 BILLION dollar business by 2018. So, it’s no wonder that MakerSpaces in libraries are hot. Speaking of Makerspaces,  MakerLabs, etc. some are expanding to include machine shop tools like laser cutters. Can you build a car at your local library? Maybe not now, but who knows perhaps, one day. After all, Tesla is now opensource.

What does this mean for libraries? We can print our own staplers, pencils, and paperclips 🙂 3D printing has the opportunity to help libraries connect with local industry and other like minded individuals such as those coordinating Hackspaces (or HackYards) and MakerSpaces. To find out where HackSpaces are in your area, check out this list. A list has been started for MakerSpaces but it seems to be primarily non-library. Why not print some promotional items for your library while you are at it?

Data, Data, Data: The Internet of Things has taken the place of Big Data as the terminology du jour. Perhaps, because Big Data was so… big and vague, whereas the Internet of Things is.. not vague (?)  🙂 Basically the Internet of Things states that all Things (devices, people, machines, etc.) are connected (by data, especially metadata).

Storage (Issue) Wars: We are quickly running out of storage space,  possibly because of the amount of content we create (see: Big Data and the Internet of Things).

What does this mean for libraries?  Libraries will be impacted by the quantity of data and storage issues, too. We generate a lot of content. (Will we ever get to a truly paperless society? Perhaps! One can hope, right?) Libraries also serve as cultural archives, too. So, how will we deal with digital content donated to us? How are we archiving our own digital content – posts on Facebook, blogs, twitter, etc.? What about digital content on physical platforms which may not be as archival as originally thought, like CD-ROMs (5-10 year lifespan). What about the digital content given to us? Or digital content on obsolete platoforms, like U-Matics?

Open revolution: One of the largest shifts in education is the impact of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that are generally free and Open Education Resources (OER).  OER are free, reusable, sharable, and mashup-able. Remix, Reuse! As more colleges, universities and libraries explore Open Textbooks and other resources, we will start seeing the impact on the publishing industry. Some have even argued that textbooks are dead even within the publishing world.  We even have local projects looking at affordability and textbooks, like Affordable Learning Georgia.

What does this mean for libraries? Libraries may have new options in terms of affordable digital content we can offer patrons, especially those who are students, life-long learners, or anyone interested in a particular topic. Additionally, some libraries, especially in community colleges and universities are getting involved in helping faculty identify appropriate content, edit content, and even publish content. Consider adding OER resources into your Reader’s Advisories, Book Clubs, Resource Guides and more. These materials are free and available for use. Plus, many can be used to build new content!

Putting the STEAM in STEM: Another big impact on education is STEM (Science, Technology, Education, Math). We’re seeing a lot of focus on STEM (and STEAM – the A is for arts!) related programs, workshops, and initiatives. Projects like Code4America,  Google Summer of Code, Hackyards can all use a hand (or meeting space) from libraries.

What does this mean for libraries? Libraries are already getting involved in technology labs through projects like MakerSpaces and the like the 4th floor project. Why not host a Hackathon? a ThatCamp? Host a TED Live viewing or participate in STEM Day (May 8). So many great opportunities to get involved.

Running route of the author, Washington, D.C.  after OpenED Conference
Running route of the author, Washington, D.C. after OpenED Conference

Wearables : Ah-ha! Now we are getting to the truly fun and useful stuff. Smart watches! Heart rate monitors! “Bandaids” that monitor medical conditions. Contacts that monitor diabetes. I love my Garmin GPS watch. You can see here that I ran around the Washington monument (actually several times) and then down to the Lincoln Monument. Not only did I record my time and map, but I could have also checked in at FourSquare or Facebook.   Also many of these smart watches also give out “badges” and encourage competition between users, so we see that gamification is still active.   My most recent acquisition is the Garmin Vivosmart which syncs with my phone to play music, get notifications from twitter or messages, or anything else.

Beacons: Very early idea technology is beacons.  Beacons like Nearables can work sort of like a QR but push content to mobile devices or cause them to interact in some way (e.g., evaluate when a plant needs watering). I find nearables to be an exciting idea for all of us. I could definitely see libraries using nearables or beacons to share information, especially in large spaces.  Beacons are emerging technologies but they have great potential.

"KUKA robot for flat glas handling" by KUKA Roboter GmbH, Bachmann - KUKA Roboter GmbH, Zugspitzstraße 140, D-86165 Augsburg, Germany, Dep. Marketing, Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
“KUKA robot for flat glas handling” by KUKA Roboter GmbH, Bachmann – KUKA Roboter GmbH, Zugspitzstraße 140, D-86165 Augsburg, Germany, Dep. Marketing, Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Robots: Let’s not forget the robots. We’ve all probably seen the cat in the shark costume riding a robotic vacuum cleaner, but robots are so much more.

What a great time to be human, eh, and what great opportunities for libraries to lead in technology.