by Leland R. Deeds
On the Sunday afternoon of ALA’s Annual Conference in Chicago, a standing room only crowd gathered for what is becoming one of the most highly anticipated jewels of the gathering, LITA’s “Top 10 Tech Trends” panel. This year’s panel included: Tom Wilson, Roy Tennant, Andrew Pace, Karen Schneider, Eric Morgan, Marshall Breeding, Milton Wolf, Joan Frye Williams, and Clifford Lynch. The crowd included all manner of librarians, from administrators of large academic systems to the library school student sitting next to me. There were several topics the panelists chose that caught my attention.
Joan Frye Williams talked about what she called a “trust shift.” The upcoming generation isn’t looking toward official institutions of learning or cultural centers of authority, be it the great book towers of academic universities and colleges, or the news anchors of prior decades. For trustworthy information, this demographic group instead relies on the power of the aggregate of all blogosphere participants to discover and authenticate the truth. This shift, Ms. Williams argued, offers both a danger and an opportunity to libraries. Libraries need to be willing to let go of exclusively using controlled vocabularies, for instance, and begin allowing users to submit descriptive language into their catalogs. If this is done, libraries could enhance a catalog’s content and reduce in-house effort by harnessing the power of the user community. Members of the audience later discussed whether this new user pattern is tied to commercial use of personalization options or the rise of popular web folksonomies.
Whatever the answer, Ms. Williams felt this shift presented the possibility of a new kind of librarianship that is no longer based on a “control and command” method, but one that offers an information environment as well as trustworthy material.One of the trends chosen by Eric Lease Morgan for discussion was the decreasing number of users coming to library websites for content. Instead of assuming that users will search out diligently crafted web pages, Mr. Morgan encouraged libraries to find ways of integrating their content and services into locations that are already a part of a user’s working day. One example could simply be listing your catalog among the quick search engine lists on a web-browser, or as a search box in an Office application suite. Providing new acquisitions lists or public events in an RSS feed format is another example. Mr. Morgan also posed the question of what libraries would look like once patrons could carry a bootable version of their computing environment, what he called a “portable personal PCÃÂÃÂ¯ÃÂÃÂ¿ÃÂÃÂ½on a key fob”.
With all of this talk about growing user participation, it is also worth noting that one of Clifford Lynch’s trends was the growth of a “plagiaosphere!” These are only a few of the ideas discussed by the panel in this great event. For a much fuller overview of all of the panelists’ lists of top trends, as well as some engaging conversations that are still ongoing, please go see LITA’s new blog: http://litablog.org/. You can find the “top trends” thread listed on the left menu bar. Enjoy!