Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Librarians Should Know These 4 Technologies

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) posted a great article about 4 technology trends that every librarian needs to know.

1. Augmented reality: Augmented Reality, or AR, is technology that provides digital overlays to reality that add information. Google’s Glass eyewear is perhaps the most commonly known example of this technology, but AR applications exist for smart phones as well - like QR codes!

2. Discovery: One of the most essential tools libraries offers to researchers is the research database -- the many products created to amass all the publications a researcher might want to look at, with search interfaces for each. Discovery has evolved from being primarily independent “ponds” of data -- separate databases, each individually maintained and with its own unique interface -- to being collected in oceans of bibliographic records and full-text articles. We started the “ocean” phase with federated search (often called metasearch), in which multiple independent databases were searched at the same time, and then a set of results returned. We have recently seen the emergence of web-scale discovery systems, vast single indexes of the content from myriad smaller database tools. The trend we are seeing now is the move to streams of information, tailored dynamically, in a context-aware way, to the information need of the researcher.

3. Large-Scale Text: A handful of projects over the past decade have involved the mass digitization of books. Google’s project is perhaps the best known, but others have been undertaken by Microsoft, the Internet Archive, and at smaller scales by library consortia or individual libraries. The recent availability of large collections of scanned, digitized, and OCR processed books has led to several interesting and groundbreaking changes. The first is the largest collection of digitized books, the HathiTrust, which now holds almost 12.5 million volumes total, 4.5 million of them in the public domain. Now that a significant number of open-access and public domain books exists, libraries can begin to assess the ongoing needs for immediate access to their physical collections. In most cases, a digital copy serves researchers’ needs. This means that libraries can coordinate storage for single copies of many titles, for long-term preservation and access to the original, but provide digital access to the text from the HathiTrust. Farther down the road, improved search engines can find books that match abstract criteria (as search engines become more adept at discerning characteristics of text, and not just identifying words on the page).

4. Open Hardware: The theme of “open” runs through these technologies. Perhaps the most intriguing is the rise of open hardware – that is, commodity-priced computer chips that can be easily programmed and networked together to bring low-cost computing power into the library. Parallel to open-source software (software that is available freely, for modification and adaptation), open-source hardware is on the verge of changing computing in general.

I agree with CILIP that libraries and librarians need to be on the front end of understanding and utilizing these newer technologies. These will be just a few of the technologies that will continue to transform information organization, seeking, and retrieval.

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