31 Jan 2012

New Tech Trends for Libraries in 2012

The American Library Association recently held a conference on the top technology trends of the present day. Stephen Abram, who works in strategic partnerships and markets, highlighted how NFC payments using smartphones may actually change perceptions of libraries. As mobile technology becomes ubiquitous and smartphones become used for more and more tasks, library patrons may question the need to physically drive to libraries when they can download an ebook to their smartphone among many other services that can be performed on a mobile device. There may need to be a rethinking of building up physical inventories when the virtual catalogue may hold the items that are actually being used much more. He also characterised QR codes as a "transitional technology that won’t exist in a couple of years". I think he may be correct on this as I have seen many libraries introducing them, though I would question if patrons actually use them, or, are they an inexpensive way for libraries to appear up to speed with mobile technology?

Intriguingly, he also said that, although digital forms of traditional library items seem to be taking over, there will exist in the near future a way of marrying the the electronic and physical object experience. 3D printers will shortly be available at reasonable prices, while print-on-demand book machines are likely to become more popular in libraries.

One possible negative trend for librarians and libraries in general is that as more and more emphasis is placed on online tools, resources and development, libraries are increasingly hiring computer programmers to work to support the library's web presence. This was the finding of Nina McHale, a library assistant systems administrator. This poses the challenge for 1) the library, who must pay the expensive wages of programmers and 2) the librarian, who although they might know some programming, their skills are just not adequate enough. It seems likely that in the future systems librarians are going to have to beef up their programming skills considerably if they are to be able to fully do their job.


  1. I concur on the QR codes - I just don't see it lasting. Even now I question do people use them? Perhaps I have just not seen the light however ;)

  2. It looks like they are on their way out. Human beings are apparently too lazy to open a QR app, point it at a QR code and wait. With near-field communication (NFC) chips on a sign, people will simply wave the phone at it and get the same result. Google has already phased out support for QR Codes from its Google Places service:

  3. Also just a point regarding funding the expensive wages of a programmer: often there can by efficiency and productivity gains from introducing better systems which may outweigh any such costs (/takes off economist hat). But yes, I agree that libraries are generally going to have to invest far more in technical IT people in the years to come.