in ALA2007, Libraries/Info Sci, Tech

ALA 2007 – LITA Top Tech Trends

I am utterly exhausted tonight – somehow I forgot how much walking a big conference like this can involve. So, here’s my raw notes with very little elaboration. A very worthwhile session though! I know I missed writing down a lot of good points, but LITA should be posting the full session as a podcast somewhere soon. The speakers were:

John Blyberg

Karen Coombs

Roy Tennant

Marshall Breeding

Walt Crawford

Joan Frye Williams

I’ll label who said what with their initials whenever possible.

MB: Library automation is an important area.
Consolidation, investment by venture capital, etc. all bring major changes and heightened distrust by customers.
Open Source is another trend – there are now legitimately considerable ILS options that are open source. Meanwhile, where do new companies that provide support for open source products fit in?
There is a new focus on updating front end interfaces to match user expectations.

JB: Back ends need to be shored up to support new front ends, due to a ripple effect of those changes causing more stress on the existing structure.
RFID sorters and storage options’ privacy issues are illusory – they’re really just barcodes, nobody can resolve what book it refers to without direct back end database access.
There’s a new desire to uncouple the OPAC from the ILS and make everything more modular

WC: RFID can have privacy concerns if patrons’ cards are chipped too
JFW: This is trying to use logic on a political issue. We’re the only institution with an application for RFID chips that won’t sue protesters, so we are their prime targets when they’re really fighting against Walmart and that sort.
MB: What about backwards compatibility issues with future generations of RFID chips and readers?

KC: The end user as content contributor is a growing trend – this has implications for the archives of local history, etc.
-Where are today’s equivalent of WWII letters written to families at home? It’s all electronic and ephemeral.
-Libraries should try to capture some of this kind of thing
-Ex) Australia’s Picture Australia Project – partnership with Flickr. Users submit pictures to a Flickr group, some are chosen for inclusion in the archive project.
Audio and Video are what users now want, and we need a way to deliver access digitally.
The line between desktop and web apps is being obliterated – where will future software reside?

JB: There’s no push to the semantic web (or web 3.0) yet.
KC: Bad HTML inhibits this
RT: If the semantic web really gets going, we’ll know hell has frozen over
MB: 3.0 can mean true information apps built from the ground up, not today’s wraps around legacy systems. This is a long way off.
WC: Users mostly don’t want to do the XML and such that the semantic web requires

RT: Trend of demise of the catalog – new tools unify access to a wide variety of information. Kill off the term OPAC.
Software as a service – get it out of local server rooms and onto central storage with the vendor – this eliminates upgrade issues.
Intense marketplace uncertainty aids a push towards open source systems.
Where do indexers fit in when someone like Google goes directly to the publishers and full text?
Eventually, an ILS will be used mostly for back room maintenance, not front end

WC: Privacy still matters – do patrons want us to be Amazon, do they understand the potential for government data mining of user records?
-The Slow library movement: Locality is vital, think before acting, and use open source only where open source really genuinely works (NOTE: Please see Walt’s comment below about this bit)
-The role of the public library in telling the community’s stories is changing due to the availability of publishing online.

MB: ILSes need to handle more formats than just MARC data
WC: For all the complaining about MARC, a session about it at 8am the other day was overflowing out the door. There’s obviously still interest.

JFW: End user focused technology is being used as a replacement, not a real change (I think I missed writing something down here, this note doesn’t make much sense to me now)
-Where we are currently tactical, we need to be strategic – don’t congratulate ourselves too early.
-We’re holding ourselves back by being afraid of irrelevance, which is self-fulfilling
-We have a reluctance to be involved more directly in the development cycle

JB: Direct visits to library websites will drop as mashups of library data are on the rise and used directly instead, but the site will still be necessary.

KC: Users’ interaction with information is changing, and we are responding. This is where much of the current environment of change comes from.