The New Revolutionary Technology

Michael Casey’s latest thoughtful post resonates deeply with me:

http://www.librarycrunch.com/2006/02/evolutionary_technology_and_th.html

So when my group, the Emerging Technologies Team, sat down to examine the current and future technology landscape, we quickly came to the realization that while there are some wonderful new things that can be put into our plan, few of them are actually new technologies. Most are modifications or improvements on existing technology. All of this leads me to believe that technology, at least right now, is in an evolutionary phase, whereas only two or three years ago we were still in a revolutionary time period where new ideas were rocking the library boat on a regular basis.

How is your library handling evolutionary technology? We certainly are moving so rapidly away from just the simple decisions about what ILS or what database vendor to choose and on to complex decisions that could impact all areas of library services. No technology planning decision can be made without involving all areas of library service or careful consideration as to how users will be affected.

Unexpected outcomes prevail as well. A computer user management system might seem to take the “sign up” burden from librarians, for example, but what are the unintended consequences: patron confusion, more training at the point of login, and the potential to place a barrier between user and information.

Programming being done by Casey Bisson and John Blyerg point to some of the revolutionary things that can be done with small, evolutionary, tools. What will result from these efforts will be amazing, and I am very anxious to see where we are in two or three years with their services. This illustrates the one item that we cannot put on our Emerging Tech suggestion list, a programmer. Clearly, one of the major divisions that now separates libraries is whether or not they can bring a programmer on board — this will be what divides libraries in the next few years. The Blybergs and Bissons and Vielmettis of the library world are the newest must-haves, and perhaps they are the new revolutionary technology.

Wow. I wish every library could have access to these folks and be able to dream up the systems that Blyberg or Bisson could then make a reality. In the real world, staffing and budgets and service priorities might make this impossible. Maybe the evolution/revolution Casey so eloquently describves will lead to an Open Source, Open Concept Share and share alike “hive” or programmers that will freely program for all libraries. What will that take? It will take a massive shift for many libraries: making space and time for the programmers to experiment, allowing time for librarians and programmers to meet and create and, simply, giving them time to Dream.

My hat goes off to the cutting edge libraries that will GET THIS and actaully dive in. Those libraries will surely achieve 2.0 stautus and beyond. I wish them well.

Thanks Michael.

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