Monday, January 17, 2011

2025: Technology Overview

As a convener of the December Minnesota Library Futurists meeting, I facilitated the small group discussion on technology in 2025. While the articles we read in preparation for the meeting covered a variety of technology tools and trends for the coming years - mobile computing, augmented reality, improved access to high speed Internet, and increased life expectancies to name a few - our discussion quickly veered away from what the technologies would be to how libraries are positioned to handled the coming advances. A few thoughts that surfaced from our analysis of libraries and technology in 2025...
  • Libraries are generally earlier adopters than much of the general public, however digital rights management may present challenges when it comes to offering our users access to electronic content. Ever-shrinking budgets will also make us wary of investing heavily in possible fad technologies. Collaboration among libraries in Minnesota could become even more important as we all try to stretch budgets while exploring new technologies.
  • There will continue to be a digital divide: both in terms of skills in using new technologies and in terms of technological ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’ Who will libraries serve? How can libraries position themselves to bridge this divide?
  • Advances in digital media will allow our patrons to access even more library resources remotely. Meshing digital library resources with physical resources and integrating all library resources into Internet searches will continue to be important, but how will we make sure the public knows they are using the library and not just free Internet resources?
  • Fear of change and wariness of new technologies will continue to exist, but hopefully we will be better positioned to adopt new technologies as more “digital natives” enter the profession and are able to share their knowledge with colleagues and the general public.
The January Futurists meeting will discuss the future of technology in more detail and it’s clear that we will have a lot to think and talk about at this meeting. We have now seen a preview of the technologies that are headed our way - and likely there will be unexpected advances beyond this. While the Futurists may not be able to tell the Minnesota library community exactly what roles various technological advances will have in libraries, it is my hope that we will be able to create a plan that will assist libraries in preparing for and dealing with possible changes that might come from the adoption of any variety of new technologies in the next fifteen years.

What are your thoughts? What will the role of technology be in libraries in 2025? How will libraries bridge the digital divide? Will it be more important to provide technologies for accessing content to those without or provide content to those that already own the devices? With no end to our limited budgets in sight, how will we figure out where to invest?

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