man with headphones working on a computer in a library

Library Tech Trends for 2018

What's in store for library tech for 2018? We have lots of important and just plain fun predictions for you, including makerspace programming suggestions, why the printed book will survive another year, some bleeding-edge tech, and a trends prediction by LITA's Christina Geuther. Welcome to 2018!

Licensing Breaches and Piracy

Christina Geuther chairs the LITA Top Technology Trends Committee and is Electronic Resources Librarian and Assistant Professor at Kansas State University. LITA is an acronym for the Library and Information Technology Association, a division of ALA. Here is Christina's prediction on library electronic resource licensing for the coming year.

LITA's Top Tech Trends Committee provides programming for two ALA conferences a year. It's a fascinating group to be a part of because we select panelists to discuss upcoming trends in library technology that will shape the landscape. When we consider proposals, we are working from guidelines that reflect a sort of pragmatic futurism for the field along with consideration for diversity across public libraries, academic libraries, consultants, and vendors. Our ALA Midwinter 2018 panelists have been selected and will be presenting in Denver in February. I am fortunate enough to get a sneak peak of what they'll have to say as we develop the program in these coming months.

My own research in library trends has to do with electronic resource licensing, especially the growing threat of suspected breaches that cut off patron access to our valuable resources. In the coming year, I expect more licensing librarians will be creating tools at their institutions to reduce problems within their user community that are a result of simply not knowing what the terms are and having more complex projects with a vendor's data. Already university librarians are crafting guides for permissions of their resources, such as text and data mining rights which will sometimes be labeled systematic download and cause for a suspected breach.

A next-generation resource management system like Ex Libris Alma even provides a way to link the license terms of use to the patron's interface when they load search results. We need to meet the users where they are, time and time again. As for what we do about piracy and compromised credentials, that strategy continues to develop as our back-end code can get smarter and then outsmarted.

In the upcoming year, I think we will see more vendors employing methods to track pirated transactions from the proxy servers, regardless of size. Already one vendor of ours does this, but they do not share details of the technology. Typically, vendors are alert when there is a large transaction, such as length of time a resource is being used in a single session or size of download in that time. Breaches are definitely a trend to watch.

Makerspace Programs

We reported in our Library Technology 2017 Year in Review that maker programs are now in most U.S. public libraries. What can possibly be next for maker programs in 2018? We predict a ravening hunger for fun, original programming for them. American Libraries published some great STEM ideas a few months ago. One of them was to use the inexpensive Google Cardboard VR platform in combination with mobile apps like Google Expeditions to create virtual field trips.

Here's an amazing project by researchers at the University of Washington. ZDnet reports that they have devised mechanical circuits made from 3D-printed plastic springs, gears, and switches that can be assembled to communicate with an Internet router. These magic little gadgets contain no electronics of any kind. The researchers have kindly provided designs for the components as well as links to sources for materials.

Video Streaming Using Multiple Methods

Ginny Mies, librarian for access services for the San Mateo County Libraries, forecasts that streaming video is going to become a more in-demand service for library systems in the coming year. More and more people are cutting the cord to their cable services, and libraries have an opportunity to fill in a content gap. San Mateo County Libraries currently have one streaming service, Hoopla, and will be adding another service soon to meet increased demand.

Ginny reports that her libraries also just started circulating GoChip Beams for patrons to take home. They are essentially storage devices with their own hotspot network. Each GoChip can hold five feature-length movies or an entire season of a TV series. Patrons connect a mobile device, computer, or TV streaming device to the GoChip's network and watch the movies or TV shows through the GoChip app. Patrons find them really easy to use. These are great for patrons who don't have home Internet, a TV, or a Netflix subscription.

The Decline of the Printed Book? Not So Fast!

No doubt we love doing everything on our screens. But researchers Lauren Singer and Patricia Alexander at the University of Maryland did a systematic literature review on how print and digital mediums stack up in regard to text comprehension. The verdict? if we are reading something lengthy — more than 500 words or so — print is better for our comprehension. Printed books and materials will still have a place in our libraries in 2018.

Bleeding-Edge Tech

It's thrilling to me when sci-fi becomes reality. This time it's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's Babel fish. Douglas Adams described it as "probably the oddest thing in the universe." His fictional Babel fish is a little creature you stick in your ear that lets you understand anything said to you in any language. We now have that. There are now three earbud devices that librarians can wear to understand patrons in different languages.

  • Google Pixel Buds are wireless earbuds that translate in near real time from 40 languages. The Google Pixel Buds cost $159 and provide 5 hours of battery life.
  • Mymanu CLIK out of the U.K. are wireless earbuds that translate from 37 languages. They currently cost just under $300.
  • Pilot Translating Earpiece from Waverly Labs will launch in 2018. This wireless earbud device will offer French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish translations to start with and will add more languages. It will cost $249 and will do group translations.

The devices work with mobile apps. We can probably regard these personal universal translators as bleeding-edge technology, but they are pretty affordable and will almost certainly get much better.

Visionary Tech

The craziest library tech predictions I saw recently are compliments of Piotr Kowalczyk and his Library of the future: 8 technologies we would love to see. Check out his delivery drones and the Ideas Box, which is a revolutionary portable library concept for developing countries by the nonprofit Librarians Without Borders.

Affordable Media Labs

Multimedia labs are already a trend in many libraries across the country. I like how Natalie Gilbert described the trend in her Learning Bird piece last year. They offer library users the chance to learn and use design software and equipment for photo editing, video production, website design, and page layout. They also often offer the chance to use scanning and digitizing equipment as well as a 3D printer. Our hope is for this trend to accelerate across the country — especially in smaller or rural libraries. One big discovery is that they can be developed very affordably. See our recent profile of the Sunnyvale Public Library and librarian Liz Hickok's recommendations for building a media lab on a shoestring.

TechSoup Resources

The Lenovo Discount Program is a brand-new TechSoup product partner. A $10 admin fee provides U.S. public libraries with a one-year subscription to discounted new Lenovo IT equipment, including desktops, laptops, monitors, tablets, and more. This equipment ranges from low-cost to more robust equipment suitable for running media labs.