Library Life or Questions Your Professor didn't Prepare You For

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Emerging Technologies, Just What are They?

One of the requirement that is appearing more and more often in job descriptions today is that the librarian be familiar with “emerging technologies”, but rarely includes any definition of just what these technologies are.  So today, I thought I’d try and provide more information about what the term refers to, a quick rundown of some of the more popular technologies, and a couple of resources that might be helpful.

There is no one definition that can really describe what emerging technology is, but according to a college in my library’s IT department, it covers a number of technologies including e-readers, web 2.0, 3D printing, and wearables like Apple’s smartwatch, to name a few.  Basically, emerging technology is anything that has the potential to be disruptive.  Here’s a rundown of some of the more widespread technologies you’ll probably run into.

3D Printing – This is the big one at the moment, with some 250 public, private, and academic libraries having one or more makerbot-replicator2printers. 3D printing is additive processes are used, in which successive layers of material are laid down under computer control.  The majority of your time with this will be spent using a Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software like Tinkercad or Designspark Mechanical.

Once you’ve designed or scanned what you want to print, you’ll review your CAD file and then print it.  The process can take a while, but you can design almost anything!  Here are a few useful resources to get you started:

Overviews of the Technology

Specific Application of the Technology in a Library Setting

Wearables – Wearable technology is, at its most basic, a piece of clothing or an accessory incorporating computer and Augmented-reality-001advanced electronic technologies. They can range from Google Glass to Apple’s smartwatch. The technology enables its user to do a number of things, including sending texts, providing a platform for mobile payments, and enabling you to interact with your other devices.  Google Glass, on the other hand, is something I find much more interesting.  It is a form of augmented reality, with enables its user to see additional information about their environment overlaid over the real world.

This has a number of applications in a variety of fields including education, medical, engineering, navigation, and task support.  While wearables like the smartwatch are more widespread at the moment, augmented reality is on its way.  Here’s some resources I’ve found useful:

Overview of the Technology

Specific Application of the Technology in a Library Setting

The Mobile Library – This can encompass a wide range of things from library apps and digital download and streaming ereadersservices like Overdrive and Hoopla to virtual reference via chat. The ability of patrons to access library materials and databases remotely and to interact with a librarian without ever leaving their home has fundamentally changed how libraries conduct their day-to-day operations.  As a librarian or as someone who’s even just looking into the field, you’ll already have made use of one or more digital services your local library has to offer.

For all of the positives that have come with mobile library services, however, it has not been without its challenges, most specifically the fact that the big five publishing houses continue to rig the prices of e-materials putting libraries at a disadvantage.  Despite this, e-materials are a huge part of librarianship now, so here’s some resources and links to get you started:

Overview of the Technology

Specific Application of the Technology in a Library Setting

Web 2.0 – Web 2.0 is distinguished form web 1.0 in that it enables its users to interact and collaborate with each other to Web-2.0-Collageuser-generated content such as blogs, Tumblr, and of course, Wikipedia. The area you’ll probably be working with this the most is either generating content for your library’s website, such as staff picks blog entries, or updating your library’s social media accounts on Instagram, Vine, or Facebook.

Since the technology is so omnipresent I won’t include an overview of the technology, but I will list some articles and links about how libraries are leveraging web 2.0 to interact with their user community.

These are the main technologies, but not the only ones, being referred to when a prospective employer asks you if you are familiar with emerging technologies.  This doesn’t mean you need to know them inside and out, just that you are at least familiar with the basics and are able to learn along with the rest of your team.  I hope this post was informative, and as always, if anyone thinks I left something out or would like to touch base, just let me know in the comments.

Also, here’s some really great blogs regarding technological trends in the library that a friend pointed me to a few months ago which have been really helpful:


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This entry was posted on March 11, 2015 by in Uncategorized.
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