Top Technology Trends for Libraries: Y2K

What technological issues have a good chance of affecting libraries in the next few years? A dozen leading members of the Library and Information Technology Association are keeping up with that and discussing issues online and in person, so that you can stay informed.

On January 16, 2000, at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference,  Karen Coyle Walt Crawford Pat Earnest Dean K. Jue Erik Jul Dan Marmion Joan Frye Williams , and  Tom Wilson  participated in the second annual discussion of top technologically-related trends for library futures. In addition,  Elizabeth Lane Lawley Clifford Lynch Roy Tennant , and  Milton Wolf  have been involved in online discussions. Their insights, collectively and individually, will help you to prepare for the always-uncertain future.

Trend #1:  Internet in Libraries

Trend #2:  Role of Librarians

Trend #3:  Convergence

Trend #4:  Partnerships

Trend #5:  Privacy

Trend #6:  E-Books


Brief Summary:

Libraries need to work with the Internet, not against it! (Dan Marmion is the one who put this so succinctly.) We can't keep waiting for the Web to go away, or we'll become the stable owners of the early 21st century, waiting for those newfangled horseless carriages to disappear. Learning about the Web - what we can do with it, what our patrons can do with it - should be our top priority.



Brief Summary:

Librarians need to decide their roles in the world of ubiquitous electronic information. Are we here to decide what is "right," or to listen to users and offer them alternatives? Start considering how we can add value to electronic information in unique ways, without trying to exert a level of control that we can't (and don't need to) achieve.


Academic Libraries of the 21st Century

Competencies for Special Librarians of the 21st Century

Charles Martrell, "The Disembodied Librarian in the Digital Age, Part I," College and Research Libraries 61, no. 1 (2000): 10-28.

Charles Martrell, "The Disembodied Librarian in the Digital Age, Part II," College and Research Libraries 61, no. 2 (2000): 99-113.

The Electronic Library (ISSN: 0264-0473)

"The Electronic Library: Slouching Toward the Future or Creating a New Information Environment" by Sheila D. Creth
IMPEL2 Project: an eLib Project funded by JISC

"Librarian 2000: A Personal Reflection on a Profession on the Verge" by Ulla de Stricker

Occupational Outlook Handbook

"Redefining a profession" by Richard A. Danner

Stanford-California State Library Institute on 21st-Century Librarianship

Transforming Traditional Libraries: A Peer-reviewed E-journal

"Who Do We Think We Are?" by Mary-Ellen Mort


Brief Summary:

Convergence - whether it's patrons wanting to use library computers for an ever-widening number of functions; the "marriage" of library collections with those of museums and archives; or patrons asking how to configure their browsers to access those online library resources from home, boundaries are blurring. There is no longer a clear line between what "we" do with technology and what "they" do with technology. We must decide what we can and will support based on real needs of users, not librarian comfort levels.


"You've Got Mail", an article from American Libraries(June 1999)
by Karen Schneider.

Discusses issues surrounding patron use of email in libraries. A search on Northern Light for "library computer policy" reveals some common limitations currently placed on patron computer activities within the library. Some restricted activities may include chat rooms, email, games, word processing, or use of outside (ie non-library) software.

"The Library and Academic Computing Center: Cultural Perspectives and Recommendations for Improved Interaction"
by Robert Favini, Reference Librarian/Online Services Coordinator, Solomon R. Baker Library, Bentley College, Waltham, Massachusetts
Outlines the technological advances of library staff and service advances of the campus computing staff. Many libraries now host "computer commons" or "information commons" areas that support a wide range of computing activities. These may be staffed by the library, computing services or a combination.

Some examples:

  1. University of Calgary
  2. University of Arizona,
  3. Institute of Museum and Library Services,
    Encourages partnerships between museums and libraries by acting as a clearinghouse for inforrmation and offering grant funding. Includes links to funded projects.
  4. PTAs and Libraries: Partners in Arts Education 


Brief Summary:

Partnerships - libraries can't afford to be isolated, and technology provides us with more tools and opportunities for collaboration. Be proactive about looking for partnership opportunities in your community, especially with organizations with deep pockets. Be prepared to look past the traditional library world and let go of rigid structures - there is life beyond MARC!


  • General Sites and Readings on Partnerships

    Partnerships Online is an organization in the United Kingdom that aims to help people use the Internet to change organizations, build partnerships and benefit communities. 

Introduction to Partnerships-

Community Technology Centers' Network (CTCNet)

Communities and Libraries: An Advocacy Training Program

Library Media & PR, a publication that has some good ideas and strategies one might use in finding and developing partnerships.

Information Infrastructure: Public Spaces For the 21st Century

New approaches to funding and community support-

Library & Technology Oriented Sites and Readings on Partnerships Local Places, Global Connections: Libraries in the Digital Age-

Public Space in Cyberspace: Library Advocacy in the Information Age-

Digital Library Futures: New Roles for Libraries-


Libraries Build Communities through Partnerships-

Partnerships and Competition-

San Jose State University Library / City of San Jose Library Joint Library Project -


Brief Summary:

Privacy - The comparative ease of collecting individual data about Web usage is both a threat and an opportunity. Librarians have historically worked to protect individual privacy in relation to intellectual freedom, but many of us are not aware that we may be leading patrons to online resources that don't offer this protection. On the other hand, sometimes we ignore the usefulness of our own data, even when it can't be traced to individuals. Libraries could be real "players" politically where it counts if we looked at more of our data in marketing terms. And aggregating data to do collaborative filtering ("people who bought this book also bought...") seems to be working for Amazon!


General Note: Check out the privacy policies located on major search engine sites and large online retailers like

  • Policies / Regulations / General Information
    AASL statement on confidentiality of library records.

    Access to Electronic Information, Services, and Networks: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights. This is an official American Library Association document that provides the basis for the library approach to this issue, but no specifics, since this issue is comparatively new in this particular incarnation. - Architecture is Policy Case Study: Cooperative development as a means for a standards-based Implementation for Privacy on the Internet.

    "Outlines the process by which business, non-profit organizations, advocacy groups and a technical standards body approached the problem of creating a simple solution to the problem of posting privacy policies on the Internet, in a way that would be:

    1. widely available and open to all interested parties;
    2. low-cost and easy to implement;
    3. capable of scaling with the Internet and new regulatory concerns."
    Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 Basic Rights of Children Under 13 and their Parents
    "The Act, when the final rules are developed by the FTC, will require that commercial Web sites that collect personal information from children under 13 obtain prior parental consent before they collect that information. The Act only applies to Web sites (or portions thereof) directed to children or to Web sites who knowingly collect personal information from children under 13. The Act does not apply to nonprofits."

  • News / Current Events / Legislative Tracking – Federal Trade Commission – Privacy Initiatives.
    Tracks government and private sector developments in issues of "personal information privacy."

    - – National telecommunications and Information Agency privacy links page. – CNET.Com News – The "Big Picture" on Internet Privacy. One of many web news sites that functions as a current events source for topics like online privacy. Covers many aspects of the issue, from legislation to hacker attacks to consumer advocacy. See also Wired, etc. - "Self-Regulation and Privacy Online," FTC Report to Congress
    Summarizes and links to 7/13/99 report surveying privacy protections by commercial organizations, how data is gathered, etc. Describes efforts of the Online Privacy Alliance, TRUSTe, BBBOnline, and others. Concludes that self-regulating efforts should be relied on for now.

  • Online Privacy Tools / Software
    - TRUSTe – Resources for both Web users and publishers on how to evaluate and create a privacy centered web site. They seek to brand sites with the "TRUSTe" logo, which indicates that a site "disclose their personal information collection and privacy practices in a straightforward privacy statement." - Cookie Central – Information on the use and abuse of cookies, and what people can do about it. – Anonymizer – An example of a private company selling products for anonymous web surfing. Also has related privacy links.

  • Organizations - – Awesome site – they have set up a sample 27 page web site to show how information you submit on one site is tracked through a network and linked up to information submitted at another. Also analyzes your connection, to show what information you broadcast to every site you visit. - Advisory Committee on Online Access and Security. Set up by the FTC, is currently holding meetings and soliciting public input on issues related to consumer privacy and the collection of information by online sources. - Online Privacy – a Canadian non-profit group that seeks to educate users about privacy rights. Gives another country's take on privacy, including links to the Canadian Privacy Act and related government sites. - Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
    "The PRC offers consumers a unique opportunity to learn how to protect their personal privacy. Our publications provide in-depth information on a variety of informational privacy issues, as well as practical tips on safeguarding personal privacy." Great links to other privacy sites. - Center for Media Education
    "The Center for Media Education (CME) is a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of the electronic media. CME fosters telecommunications policy making in the public interest through its research, advocacy, public education, and press activities." Has a great interest in children's privacy. - Electronic Frontier Foundation
    "The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been established to help civilize the electronic frontier; to make it truly useful and beneficial not just to a technical elite, but to everyone; and to do this in a way which is in keeping with our society's highest traditions of the free and open flow of information and communication." - Electronic Privacy Information Center
    Aims to "focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values."


Brief Summary:

We can't fend off e-books with a glib "I like to read a book at the beach, under a tree, or in bed" any more, because now you can do all of those things. With some public libraries starting to lend Rocket e-books and NetLibrary signing up universities right and left, the world of e-books is taking shape, although it might not affect your library for a year or two. What librarians need to do now is stay informed and get involved in discussions with e-book publishers about standards - don't assume that privacy concerns, fair use in copyright, and methods of charging for use are going to conform to what we've gotten used to in libraries with print materials.


These trends build on, but don't negate, issues identified in January and June 1999, so don't forget to take a look back from the Top Technology Trends website.