This time around LITA’s Top Tech Trends featured an entirely new set of speakers who had never appeared on this panel before.
User Experience Librarian
Head of Library Information Technology
University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
Instructional Design Librarian
Wake Forest University
Web Services Librarian
California State University System
The discussion was moderated by Top Tech Trends chair, Gregg Silvis.
To view the live blog transcript from Top Tech Trends – ALA Midwinter 2010, visit
We need a mega-search that goes beyond Google Scholar and takes advantage of link resolvers – a sort of next-gen federated search. - working to craft something that is unique to your library.
How do you give access to hundreds of databases that libraries subscribe to?
As more content is brought together, new systems will provide greater/better access.
Any tool that addresses a fundamental problem for libraries will have great penetration.
Because data lives in silos, searching means going to silos. RSS feeds means going to silos. How do we get a unified mobile interface?
Vendors are currently engaged in a numbers race. Who has the most journals? Who has the most content?
We need to be able to pull data out of vendor silos and bring it together in a single service. Once we do that, we can add services on top of a single data stream.
Why aren’t library consortia coming together to build their own discovery systems rather than leaving this to the vendors?
Are libraries giving up more control to the cloud?
Amanda Etches-Johnson – Some institutions don’t have federated search! What improvements will we see from it?
David Walker – Federated searches level the playing field. It creates a better search, allows faceted browsing.
Amanda Etches Johnson – 2009 buzzwords: user experience. One of the problems is that no one can agree on what it means.
In the user experience design world, people are talking about how it makes users feel.
Mobile interfaces are stripped down. You don’t have time, bandwidth, or real estate for fancy design.
Users are seeking out mobile interfaces – not just on mobile devices, but also on regular screens. Need for speed!
What we do for mobile devices is really going to impact web design and what we do for large-screen formatting.
Automated usability testing is up and coming. Subscription-based options for doing usability, but this doesn’t replace usability professionals! Check out http://usabilla.com/.
Who is responsible for developing the user interface experience? Does the vendor do it? Does each institution do it?
An interesting thought emerged from discussions around the table and from audience-submitted comments. How exactly do we measure the user experience? User experience quality is hard to measure, but we still need to be having the conversations. It was noted that currently most user experience research is coming from outside libraries.
Lauren Pressley – Different types of groups expect different things from us.
Jason Griffey – Currently building a new library at UT Chattanooga. They’ve spent a lot of time thinking about physical usability and overall usability of the structure.
How do you pair this with online usability and user experience across services? Twitterer memclaughlin notes that website design should connect with physical library design.
Amanda – Literature talks about how to develop a more holistic approach. Be cognizant that there are other elements to consider.
Joe Murphy – We have recently seen near-universal mobile adoption from all patron groups.
The changes are coming from user expectations. Small downloadable apps for smartphones.
SMS is the oldest, strongest, and most flexible mobile app. It’s more than just a communication tool. It’s also a research tool.
Use of SMS for reference has really taken off, but just because it’s a new environment doesn’t mean that it changes core values of reference and libraries.
For some users, the only reason that print is relevant is when it’s not available electronically.
Mobile technology is changing our opinions about what is acceptable in libraries. Do our libraries even have the cell phone signal strength to support the technology?
Location-based gaming is up and coming. How do we manage it, and how do we leverage it? There can be rewards for using location-based services such as waiving fines or other, less traditional options.
Twitter became a standard in 2009. Now that it’s a standard libraries are reacting to it in a different way. It’s a platform for services. Some user groups may never use Twitter, but that shouldn’t stop us from using it to engage other groups.
The ability to be continually flexible is very demanding!
Mobile technology does not change the soul of libraries.
David Walker – What do smaller libraries do? What should they be focusing on?
Joe Murphy – If we spend more time prepping for technologies and services, what suffers? How do we balance serving our multiple constituencies?
We have to figure out the priorities for future relevance. We have to be ready for the next couple of years in addition to maintaining traditional strengths.
Lauren Pressley – Augmented reality - blending virtual data with the real world
Augmented reality combines real and virtual data in a way that happens in real time with a 3d nature.
The extra data helps people gather more meaning from what they’re seeing.
As an example, consider the instant replay of a hockey game. You can see a virtual line that indicates the path that the puck traveled. You don’t actually see the line, but it helps you better understand what happened during play.
Greater potential for augmented reality games?
2010 Horizon Report predicts impact of augmented reality in education.
Augmented reality helps organizations/individuals embed contextual information.
Check out WolfWalk from NCSU for an example using historical pictures from digital collections.
Library applications? Imagine a tool for the periodicals section – tutorials pop up to help users at point of need. Or how about a pop-up that helps users visualize and maybe even narrow in on call numbers when they’re searching the stacks?
And a suggestion from Twitterer jaimebc: When you walk into the library an augmented reality app could give you information on award winners and best sellers.
David W. – Do you see libraries taking ownership of that? Does the public library take ownership of the city?
Ideally – an application that allows users to plug their own data into it. Crowdsourcing again.
By layering groups of historical photos, users could walk down Main Street and see what it looked like in the 1850s, 1870s, 1900s, 1920s, etc.
Jason G. – The unique integration of archival materials. Libraries have an opportunity to use archives as teaching/training tools as well as interesting tools for the community.
David W. – As you browse the stacks, people miss part of the collection if it’s back on a server or in archives. Augmented reality could fill in those gaps.
Jason Griffey – 2009 was the year of the iPhone App Store.
App store opened in 2008. By January 2009, 500,000,000 apps had been downloaded. App downloads are now into the billions.
The growth has been unlike anything the computer world has ever seen.
Given the popularity of the app store, pretty much every other cell phone manufacture is getting on the bandwagon.
With all of these apps though, there are only a handful that are library-specific.
Jason predicts that 2010 will be the year the app dies because of HTML 5 and CSS 3.
HTML5 allows for offline storage. You can store locally using just HTML 5. Native audio and video support can reduce the need for Flash. It supports Canvas – online drawing.
If you’re thinking about writing an app, think about writing it in web standards.
Jason notes that about 95-96 % of what he currently does can be done in a browser.
New standards will bring really rich app-like experiences inside a browser.
A couple of Twitterers pointed out the need to develop on platforms besides just the iPhone. Perhaps these new web standards are the way to level the playing field on development.
Group topic – The Reinvention of the Book
Moderator Gregg Silvis brought out a 10-year old Rocket e-book and an Amazon Kindle. Form factor is surprisingly similar. In fact, several Twitterers noted that the two devices are "frighteningly" similar.
Jason – Thinks that the e-book as a hardware device is dying. Sites like Copia, Blio, and multifunction devices such as the (upcoming) Apple tablet may contribute to this. Copia will allow users to interact in ways such as social annotation. Blio allows instructors to embed quizzes in the text.
Lauren – The issue of ownership with e-books is different. For many people, reading is a solitary experience that individuals share with the author.
The concept of ownership with e-books is different.
How much will publishers move to a format that libraries feel comfortable with?
Joe – I don’t see e-book devices having a place in a library. The focus should be on content.
I can’t get books from the library on my iPhone. I’m buying it through the Kindle app on my iPhone.
For some of us, our iPhone can be our everything device.
The Twitter world has really changed my expectations of reading.
I want to be able to interact with the text.
Amanda – Devices are not the future. We have a lot of subscriptions that are read on computer screens.
David – Undergrads are going to very specific online journals because it’s easy and convenient. Sometimes they would actually be better served by going to the catalog and finding a book with a more general treatment of the topic.
E-book licensing isn’t friendly to smaller institutions.
If e-books were as accessible as journal articles, would that change undergraduate research behavior?
Jason – Publishers should pay attention to the recording industry and learn that DRM only hurt music sales. No consumer likes DRM.
Audience and Twitter comments – A lot of users just don’t have access to laptops and mobile devices. Perhaps they can’t afford them. Perhaps their network infrastructure can’t support them. Where do libraries come into play? Over the years, libraries have been among the first to place technology in the hands of users. Do libraries have a role to play with e-book readers?
Another online commenter pointed out that even when people cannot afford some things, they often have cell phones, Playstations, Wiis, etc.
Other Top Tech Trends writeups from around the net.