10 innovative technologies to implement at the library of the future
Given that the main mission of libraries is to offer equality of access to information for every citizen, then why not be a trendsetter in digital use and implement more emerging technologies? As Mogens Vestergaard, Manager of Library and Citizen Service at Roskilde Libraries in Denmark emphasizes in our interview here, “it is the library’s obligation to be at the edge of different uses of culture and uses of technology”.
This article presents a range of relevant and useful innovative technologies to implement at the library. We focus on the technology’s applicability and the benefits it could bring to the library.
Want to also know what are the current technology trends in libraries? From digital storytelling, VR to kinetic bikes and RFID technology, John Garland helps us look at how libraries are using technology to improve services for customers today. Read more in part two of this series here.
1. Big data
Along with all the technological advancements, people’s most basic activities are generating more data than ever. The storage and analysis of large datasets can be a real advantage for librarians as they have the relevant skills and knowledge to make the best use of these massive sources of information.
How can big data be used by libraries? Big data can improve the library’s activity overall, by simply having access to more insights into the user’s mind. In an article written on publiclibrariesonline.org about the use of big data in libraries, Ginny Mies emphasizes that “libraries can use core customer intelligence to better reach customers, create a better connection with the community and become more relevant and stay more flexible and adaptable to all the environment changes”. You can read the whole article here.
Furthermore, libraries can use big data to create a personalized user experience by offering content and resources based on each individual wish. But at the same time, libraries must consider the privacy issues coming with any access to personal data.
2. Artificial Intelligence
With Siri and Alexa available on everyone’s devices nowadays, artificial intelligence is no longer a futuristic technology as it is gaining more and more traction in our everyday activities. As Kristin Whitehair stresses in an article on Public Libraries Online Website, “with many AI applications focused on delivering information to the user, it can appear that AI is a challenge to libraries”. But at the same time, she adds that “the intelligence is artificial, not human. Libraries can connect people to information and, more importantly, to other people”, whereas AI can’t.
Adding an intelligent side to all applications at the library is a real opportunity to understand the patterns in user behavior and adapt to their needs.
Blockchain technology has been one of the most discussed technologies in the past year, as Bitcoin has gained more and more power. Blockchain technology represents a decentralized database that keeps records of pseudonymized digital transactions that are visible to anyone within the network. Therefore, it is a new way to collect and store data.
Sue Alman, a teacher on emerging technologies highlights in an article for EdSurge that blockchain technology “could be used to build an enhanced metadata system for libraries, to keep track of digital-first sale rights and ownership, to connect networks of libraries and universities, or even to support community-based borrowing and skill sharing programs.”
4. Internet Of Things
Since having connection to the internet has become a necessity more than a luxury, The Internet of Things (IOT) receives more and more attention. Just like the RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology, IOT refers to the possibility of connecting everyday devices and transferring data between them. But only in the case of IOT, the data is transferred over the Internet. As a recent article on American Library Association website highlights, there are many “opportunities for library applications, from tracking room usage and program attendance to monitoring humidity levels for special collections and more”. Therefore, the library can offer a better user experience by enriching its services and collections.
The example given in the article shows Hillsboro Public Library in Oregon who has introduced the Book-O-Mat, a self-service kiosk which is monitored from the main library to track usage and identify usage trends and make recommendations.
5. Library bookmark apps
In his article on the “eBook friendly” website, Piotr Kowalczyk gives a few examples of technologies that could be used in the future. The author mentions an interesting device from a Chinese design company Toout that acts as a regular bookmark but also has additional features that facilitate the user’s activity related to finding books.
The tool is still in the concept phase but features the possibility to offer directions to the user regarding the book they want to find or keep track of their lending activity in a more interactive way. Locating books inside the library is still a struggle for many users so a functionality that can guide the user towards the book is a cutting-edge fix to this problem.
6. User-focused interfaces and application
One of the future perspectives of library services is a personalized interaction between the system and the user. Whether this is an interactive game projected onto the floor for children to interact with, digital exhibitions featured on screens, big screens in libraries that can be used to offer different kinds of information and also inspire users to find certain books or a simple display that allows taking a ‘selfie’; libraries can use technology to create a digital experience for the user.
For example, The State Library of Queensland has recently created “Unstacked”, a new way of digitally visualizing the State Library’s collection. In her interview with Princh, Jane Cowell explains more about the new project: “Unstacked” continuously updates to reflect the real-time searching of users as they search the library catalogue. She adds that “there is amazing content that is hidden in the collection but unless a user is specifically searching for it, this content remains hidden.” This visual showcase of the items in the library’s collection is curated by the user and is continually updating and it is hoped that it will motivate and inspire users to explore the collection more widely.
The @slqld has a new visualisation in the Knowledge Walk. It’s called ‘Unstacked’ and shows in real time what’s being searched on the library catalogue from across the globe. A colleague searched my books today and sent me a pic of what came up. How cool is this? #qldlibrariespic.twitter.com/n3Wc9kLkKO
Augmented reality is a hot topic in the tech world and people are curious about its deployment in various domains, from medicine to gaming. So why not implement it in libraries too and combine digital with reality?
A combination of the real with the digital is a development we are all impatiently waiting for, especially when we talk about physical objects. Everyone loves the ‘copy’ and ‘find’ functions of an e-book and the practice of highlighting all the important excerpts from documents.
Driverless cars still seem just a depiction of the sci-fi movies we’ve all seen when growing up. But according to Ida Joiner, writer of the recently published book called “Emerging Library Technology”, vehicles that can travel between destinations without a human driver can be of high importance for libraries in the future.
Librarians will play an important role by providing resources to users who want to learn more about driverless vehicles and who want to pursue careers in these areas. Libraries can collaborate with schools, companies and workforce agencies that are spreading this technology and offer different possibilities to the users such as arranging internships, mentor opportunities for students, host career fairs or workshops to learn about the technology.
The small flying devices remotely controlled are another trendsetter in science nowadays. Either by adding a new technology at the library or creating workshops for users where they can learn to build and use a drone, the libraries can benefit a lot from its use.
Furthermore, drones can be used for creating content for the library, collecting data or as Piotr mentions in his article, the drone can be used for delivery service for the library users who don’t have the possibility to go to the library; be it because of a disability, or because of the long distance to the library.
Impossible, you’d think! But the book delivery is already happening, only not in libraries. The Australian startup Flirtey has made its first demonstration of book delivery for a book rental service called Zookal. You can watch it here. The service might be too much for a library but in an era where the users want to have everything at their disposal with less effort, it might be worth giving it a thought.
There are massive technology developments that are ongoing and underway which can be great additions to the user’s experiences at the local library.
Interested to learn what are the current technology trends in libraries?
From digital storytelling, VR to kinetic bikes and robots, John Garland helps us look at how libraries are using technology to improve services for customers today. Check it out below!
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Petra is a library advocate at Princh and writer on the Princh Blog. Princh, which is a printing solution designed specifically for and with public libraries, makes a consistent effort to provide advocacy for libraries and library professionals. The Princh blog discusses library specific topics that inform their readers of library trends, insights, technologies and more.