Top Technology Trends, 2001 ALA Midwinter Meeting

2001: a Technology Trends Odyssey

In the third annual discussion of trends that you need to be aware of in planning for your library, LITA technology leaders  Karen Coyle Clifford Lynch Eric Lease Morgan Thomas Peters Joan Frye Williams , and  Tom Wilson  visited (and in some cases, revisited) a variety of ongoing technology issues affecting libraries. This discussion took place at the Midwinter Conference of the American Library Association in Washington, DC, on January 14, 2001.

Although not even these selected discussion participants would claim to be able to tell you exactly what tomorrow will bring, they monitor the technology environment so that they can give you a "heads-up" on what's on the horizon. So, apes gathering around a black monolith? Or techno-prophets you need to listen to? You make the call!

Trend #1:  E-Books

Trend #2:  Convenience

Trend #3:  Articles by Librarians

Trend #4:  Shop Floor Management

Trend #5:  National Boundaries on the Web


Brief Summary:

The group is still keeping a close eye on trends in e-books, but the picture has remained murky as to what formats and reading devices will continue to be viable. Microsoft, Adobe, and Gemstar have emerged as major players. The group did agree that, in a variety of ways we can't even foresee yet, e-books are giving birth to the concept of the book, not as fixed and unchanging, but renderable in a variety of forms.


Mark Beatty's e-book Web site:


Brief Summary:

In today's electronic, quick-response world, libraries may not be able to rest solely on their free-access laurels. Although in the days of the digital divide, libraries are even more important as an open and equitable public-access point for the world of information, a large part of our clientele are getting used to speed and demanding convenience. They are becoming used to having convenient options if they're willing to pay for them.
The idea of "Convenience" reflects a user/patron view of information retrieval and consumption, oriented towards a modern lifestyle where speed is often more important than thoroughness or even quality.

Internet Study Fact Sheet
Summary of a report by the Urban Library Council. Patrons compared and rated reasons for using the library vs. using the internet.
    Best quote: "Reasons for nonuse of the library selected by most respondents (who reported that they
    do not use the library ) appear to be related to lifestyle choices."

E-Books The TTT trends page.

Customization The TTT trends page.

RFID - One of the new wireless barcoding technologies, which allow speedier checkin/checkout and inventory capabilities. Also see BiStatix and 3M for examples of self-checkout systems.

24/7 Library services
Providing library services anytime, anywhere. Examples include Reference projects, Electronic Reserves
(, and expanding regular library hours.

Catalogs vs. Search Engines: Is catalog design too difficult/specialized for our users?
- Roy Tennant's article, advocating making library catalogs as easy to use as Google or Yahoo
- Steve Coffman's article on using as a model for library catalogs.
-Dr. Amanda Spink's 1999 survey that shows users of internet seach engines don't use "advanced" search features (boolean, relevance, etc.), but typically prefer short and simple keyword searches.

Buying vs Checking Out


Brief Summary:

Users are asking "Why can't the library's catalog search a million items as fast as Google can search a billion?" and they may soon be asking "Why does the library take the time to tell me how many centimeters tall a book is, but nothing about whether it's any good or not?" If we continue to see the world solely through the prism of the library catalog, will we be looking at that world all by ourselves?


Marylaine Block -- Beat Out by Amazon The Defect in Realism

Roy Tennant -- Unintended Consequences The Art and Science of Digital Bibliography

Steve Coffman -- Building Earth's Largest Library: Driving into the Future

And a reaction by Walt Crawford -- Gutting America’s Local Libraries: Informal Comments on "Building Earth’s Largest Library"

Libraries focusing less exclusively on the catalog: Innovative Internet Applications in Libraries -- Your Personal Library and Web Companion, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County.


Brief Summary:

How can we "automate the shop floor" of the library? The shortage of library professionals means that the jobs of those we do have need to be "reprofessionalized," and the productivity of laborious functions like physical inventory (collection) management must be increased. Radio Frequency Identification technology used to track library materials is already being implemented. Could Speedpass automatic payment technology help? Libraries must look to functions in industry comparable to those we do, in order to survive and thrive.


Library Card Catalog, R.I.P., by Katie Dean,1284,41905,00.html

  • RFID (Radio frequency identification) used for patron card authentication and materials circulation.

This is the AIM RFID site. It claims to be the link to all the happenings in the RFID world and the home for information on RFID technologies.
PDA Buzz
PDA Comparison Net
  • Pager’s and cell phones used with managing time and expertise of professional reference staff.

Wireless Advisor
The Survivor's Guide to 2001: Mobile and Wireless Technology


Brief Summary:

Will attempts to "repatriate" the Web be successful? Yahoo's imbroglio with France over the sale of Nazi memorabilia on its auction site and Germany's attempts to fight neo-Nazi hate speech on the Web raise the question "How 'world wide' is the Web?" The group did not believe that ultimately countries would be successful in enforcing national laws in an international arena, but already these attempts have resulted in changes in what some major Web players allow through their sites.

These trends build on, but don't negate, issues identified in past Top Tech meetings, so don't forget to take a look back from the Top Technology Trends website.


The resource list is broken down into two categories. The first deals with illustrative cases in particular countries, showing that many countries have become involved with this issue.

The second section focuses more on the jurisdiction / censorship aspect of the issue, as most issues related to national boundaries have to do with these topics.

  • Countries and National Boundaries
Net user to take on OLF in court.
This discusses a case in Canada in which a Quebec based Website did not follow rules that specified certain items must be in French, the official language of the province.

Beijing cracks down on Net
This article details some information on new Chinese regulations applicable to both Internet content and service providers, such as banning dissemination of any information which would threaten the government's goal toward reunification with Taiwan.

Similar information, including information regrading the impact and restrictions placed on the end-user is detailed in the following article:
China Goes One-on-One With the Net

The Net now has a national court: this month it's French!
This article details a recent issue in which a French judge asked Yahoo! (in America) to prevent French Internet users from accessing auctions of Nazi memoribilia. Among other things, the question was asked as to whether this was even technically possible.

Two additional articles on this same case:
Should the Net Recognize National Boundaries?
The End of the Borderless Net?"national+boundaries"&n=33686610&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ezdnet%2Ecom%2Fzdnn%2Fstories%2Fnews%2F0%252C4586%252C2656254%252C00%2Ehtml&title=News%3A+The+end+of+the+borderless+Net%3F

India is confused with cyber laws
This article talks about Cyberlaw in India (or lack therof), and the opinion that the existing Criminal Procedures Code of India is being foolishly applied to Cyberspace issues.

Long Arm of the Law Reaches Far Into Cyberspace
Part of this article discusses a case involving an Italian web site violating a pre-Cyberspace (1981) injunction against distributing particular material in the US, due to copyright infringement on Playboy magazine's trademark rights.

United Kingdom
Yahoo U.K. blocks access to U.S. adult chat rooms
This article discusses how Yahoo UK blocked access to Yahoo (US) based chatrooms, due to recent publicity regarding illegal pornography.

  • Jurisdiction and Censorship Articles
Cyberspace Law Bibliography, from The UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy
This is a detailed bibliography detailing jurisdiction in Cyberspace issues, including such issues as copyright law, trademark law, etc.

One may want to jump to additional information found under their "Selected Online Resources" page:

Litigation In Cyberspace: Jurisdiction And Choice Of Law: A United States Perspective
This treatise discusses how law is trying to grapple with issues brought about by the Internet. It mentions that international liability is not a major concern in many instances.

  • A more layman approach to the above can be found with:

Lawyers Call for International Web Standards

Jurisdiction In Cyberspace: A Theory of International Spaces
This paper carries on a legal and somewhat philosophical discussion regarding what and where exactly cyberspace is, with the hopes that some understanding or relation to this would enable one to better grapple with juristictional issues related to the Internet. It compares cybersapce with other "international spaces," such as outer space.

Censorship 2000
This lenghty article talks about the "global epidemic of virtual censorship," via access blocking, filtering, ratings systems, etc. It discusses such things as Germany banning German sites from carrying the magazine Radikal, and talks about the Group of Eight industrial nations stating that there is a need for Internet regulation to address certain issues.
Reporters without Borders -- Enemies of the Internet

(Source: When in Rome: Web sites run afoul of the law internationally when they offend mores locally.