Technology impacts libraries, both in what we traditionally do and in the larger information environment that informs our users’ expectations when they leave the “real world” and enter the library doors (or website). As such, one of my graduate school areas of focus was emerging technologies and I continue to experiment with them whenever it makes sense.
Rather than write about why each of the tools I’ve used is important, I’d rather spend the space discussing my guiding principles.
Our Users Might Not Know What They Want….Yet
We all know the (possible) Henry Ford quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This is one of my guiding thoughts when I pilot new technology projects. It’s why I stood in line on the day the first iPhones came out. I work to understand the mainstream future-state of the world before it’s mainstream. That kind of understanding can help my library plan for the services that people will want to be using before they know they want use it. And that is a big piece of the puzzle of how we remain relevant.
Sometimes it’s even more than that. When I rolled out QR Codes–a technology that we all knew would be short lived–it was because it was clear the QR Codes would become mainstream in media and advertising in the near future, and we wanted our students to be ready for it the first time they came across them. Posting them throughout the library allowed us to experiment with the first steps towards augmented reality, and made it easy to incorporate that technology, as well as others, into our broader information literacy efforts.
Technology Should be Appropriate
That being said, it’s never a good idea to unveil a massive technology project only because it’s shiny. You can get away with that occasionally for marketing and outreach purposes, and to firmly establish yourself as a technology innovator in the community, but most of the time it is critical to focus on technology projects that are appropriate.
Appropriate to the community means lots of things: If most students have access to smart phones, you can build applications for that. If no one has a tablet, perhaps the extent of tablet programming is about introducing the idea to the community through programming and circulating them. There are lots of ways to determine community standards and expectations: surveys, observation, conversations, focus groups, anthropological studies, etc.
The “Right” Answer Will Change
With technology it’s particularly important to recognize that the right answer changes with time. In the nine years I served at Wake Forest University, the “right” solution for research guides moved from website to handout to wiki to LibGuide. That’s a rapid shift! We used four different chat clients and/or services at our reference desk over the same time period. Our “blogs” service shifted from being a primary provider of blogs on campus to the more highly customized requests to more academic focuses. My main focus in this domain is that it’s important to plan, but it’s also important to realize that the plans will change, and that flexibility in light of user expectations and available tools will be key.
Lifelong Learning, Experimenting, and Sharing
As with so many parts of our field (instruction, scholarly communication, cataloging standards, just to name a few), lifelong learning will be be critical for those interested in technology–which I hope would be most of us. I don’t think everyone should be an expert on every new technology, but people should have a strategy for how to stay current–whether its specific communication channels, publications, or even just keeping in touch with that colleagues who keeps up with everything. But knowing about what is going on is just the first step. It’s also critical to play with the new tools you find and experiment to see what they’re capable of. And, if they’re capable of something good, or something not as good that we all ought to know, it’s important to share it out. That way, the folks who don’t have as much time for learning and experimenting can come across the information and build on the work of others. We’re all in this together. Our shared experimentation and knowledge is what will help us stay agile and adapt in the future. Speaking of which:
Helping Our Users Make Sense of Their Information Environment
The rate of change can be overwhelming, and it is easy to feel that it’s difficult to keep up with the new services and tools that are available. This perspective led me to give a regular workshop on “Making the Internet Work For You” for Virginia Tech’s faculty development program:
This presentation has many purposes: to save faculty members’ time in selecting tools, to position the library as a center of experts in the evolving information environment, to provide a gateway to future conversations about workflows and research processes. But mostly its to cut through some of the noise online, and help shift the tools from being a distraction to being productive.
The Technologies I Have Shared With The Field
- “Today’s Technology Trends, or, ‘What Do I Do With That?’” North Carolina Serials Conference. Chapel Hill, NC. April 15, 2010. <http://slidesha.re/todaystechtrends> Invited all-conference presentation.
- “Top Tech Trends.” With panelists Amanda Etches-Johnson, Jason Griffey, Joe Murphy, and David Walker. ALA Midwinter. Boston, MA. January 17, 2010. Invited panelist.
- “High Tech / Low Cost Solutions for Libraries.” With Amy Harris, Edward Hirst, Lynda Kellam, and Giz Womack. NCLA, Technology and Trends Roundtable. Elon, NC. August 4, 2008. Workshop.
- “Patrons Left to their Own Devices: Library Databases and E-Readers.” With Lynda Kellam, Amy Harris, and Mark Sanders. Libraries: The Next Generation. North Carolina Library Association. Hickory, NC. October 6, 2011.
- “Bite-Sized Repositories: The Benefits of Small Scale Repositories for Local Use.” LITA National Forum. Salt Lake City, Utah. October 2, 2009. <http://www.slideshare.net/laurenpressley/bite-sized-repositories>
- Pressley, L. (2008) “Using Videos to Reach Site Visitors: A Toolkit for Today’s Student.” Computers in Libraries. 28:6.
- “QR Codes, Location Based Services, and Augmented Reality for Libraries.” Positioning your Library in the Mobile Ecosystem: Content and Delivery. LYRASIS Technology Ideas and Insights Series. Elon, NC. August 4, 2011. Invited.
- “QR Codes.” With Kevin Gilbertson. Strategic Focus and Value for Library Communities. Computers in Libraries. Washington DC. March 23, 2011. <http://guides.zsr.wfu.edu/qrcodes> Video used in preconference and QR Codes session.
Blogs and Wikis
- “LITA Tech Set Authors Conversation.” With Marshall Breeding. ALA Midwinter. San Diego, CA. January 8, 2011. Invited panelist.
- Pressley, L. (2010) “Wikis for Libraries,” Neal-Schuman. < http://www.neal-schuman.com/wiklib> Invited. Peer reviewed.
- Pressley, L. and C. McCallum. (2008) “Putting the Library in Wikipedia,” Online Magazine. 32:5.
- “ZSR Library Presents: Blogs and Wikis @ Wake Forest University.” With Susan Sharpless Smith and Kevin Gilbertson. MERLOT International Conference. Minneapolis, MN. August 9, 2008.
- “Situating Blogs and Wikis: The Value Added Proposition of the Library as Service Provider.” With Giz Womack and Kevin Gilbertson. Triangle/Triad Instructional Technology Meeting. Greensboro, NC. May 7, 2008.
Updated September 29, 2014