Libraries and the IoT

Generic depiction of things connected via the internet: Car, coffee maker, phone, refridgeratorThe Internet of Things, or IoT, has caused an explosion in the number of everyday devices that are able to collect and transmit data. Librarians recognize the balancing act required to implement IoT technologies in accordance with core principles of librarianship. Where IoT can improve access to materials or services, or provide learning opportunities, without compromising patron privacy, libraries are joining hands with their communities and diving in. Librarians are also leading the way on educating patrons about what IoT entails—its inner workings, uses, limits, and implications for our communities and society.

One of the advantages of IoT technologies is that they allow for remote monitoring, data transmission and control. For many people, this conjures images of “nanny cams” or refrigerators that trigger an alarm when the milk is low; but the opportunities for library applications are vast, from tracking room usage and program attendance to monitoring humidity levels for special collections. And IoT offers libraries even more than these basic monitoring functions.

As a partner in the city’s Wayfinding Program, Hillsboro Public Library in Oregon has introduced the Book-O-Mat, a self-service kiosk located in Hillsboro’s central plaza and stocked with new and popular books and movies. Located in a high pedestrian traffic area, the Book-o-Mat is monitored from the main library a few miles away to track usage, alert the library when restocking is needed, and identify popular selections for informed collection development.

D.H. Hill Library at North Carolina State University has embraced IoT for library operations and as a teaching tool. IoT devices monitor furniture movement, count visitors, provide keycard access, and control digital signage. . Integrated into its other services, including technology lending, the Libraries’ Internet of Things program encourages hands-on exploration of embedded technologies, connecting students with relatively low-cost materials to develop practical applications that solve real-word problems. Librarians facilitate learning and students can test and refine their prototypes, learn from others, and showcase their work.

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