The Role of Current and Emerging Technologies in Effective, Service-Oriented Libraries
The ability to understand the role of current and emerging technologies and infrastructure when it comes to organizational effectiveness and service delivery is partly contingent on an information professional’s sense of whether a certain technology is merely trendy or if it will prove to be useful over the long-term to their organization’s patrons. A librarian’s technological instincts go beyond the identification of technical jargon and defining which technologies are current, which are emerging, and which are on their way out. Technology is not something that a library can or should adopt lightly; its potential for long-term use and effectiveness at meeting organizational missions, goals, and objectives is critical, as is patron demand.
Similarly, current and emerging infrastructure options must be carefully examined for necessity, the potential for effective use, and demand. Infrastructure tends to be more internal, and include such technologies as free Wi-Fi at the library, modern online public access catalogs (OPACs) and discovery layers, 3D printers, and so on. Infrastructure is essential for delivering on people’s expectations of the services that a library offers; beyond information resources, libraries and information centers must provide the means for patrons to act on that information, whether that means printing out articles found in databases using the library’s subscription, computers, and web browser, or designing a model using specialized software and watching it emerge from a 3D printer.
Information professionals of all varieties have to understand the role of current and emerging technologies in order to be effective at delivering in-demand, valuable services to patrons. Furthermore, in order to understand their role within a larger network –of employees at a given information center, as members representing a particular branch of a larger institution, or within the information profession at large– information professionals must acknowledge the part infrastructure plays in their everyday duties.
Technology has always played a vital role in my life. Part of what drew me to librarianship is the ability to translate my passions and interests into a career, by integrating my love of technology with my desire to be of service. By also acting as a content creator and gatekeeper, I involve myself in different parts of librarianship, such that technology doesn’t tend to frighten or frustrate me, but inspires curiosity. The more I understand about the role of current and emerging technologies and infrastructure, the better I as an information professional, will be able to personally contribute to the overall impression of a library’s effectiveness and service delivery.
For the purposes of this goal, I have selected four courses in which I believe I demonstrate my understanding of the role of current and emerging technologies and infrastructure in organizational effectiveness and service delivery. They include coursework from Library and Information Technologies (LIM 562), Fundamentals of Library and Information Science (LIM 500), Research Methods in Library and Information Management (LIM 504), and Organization, Access, and Retrieval of Information (LIM 503). In particular, I have chosen to highlight a discussion presentation I created for my LIM 562 course, a report on the connection between Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and academic library environments in my LIM 500 course, a paper on the use of mobile applications in public libraries from my LIM 504 course, and finally, a short paper on library websites acting as a gateway to a community that I wrote with Samantha Farley for our LIM 503 class.
Emerging Technologies Discussion Presentation
Artifact course context and relationship to goal. My Emerging Technologies Discussion slideshow is one that I designed and presented in the final live session of my LIM 562 course. Though Dr. Shih assigned general topics, I researched and analyzed various areas of current and emerging technology of particular interest to those in library environments. The areas I covered in my presentation included cloud and mobile computing, security, the role of emerging technologies in education, IT workforce and hiring, how technology is changing what we think of “funding” in the form of “freemium” or “crowdsourced” services and technologies, campus learning analytics, and more. I aimed to stimulate discussion with and among my classmates about the current and possible future role of these technologies in libraries and information centers. This presentation served to directly introduce or remind my classmates of the variety of current and emerging technologies that may impact an information organization’s effectiveness and service delivery.
Roles, responsibilities, and process. I was solely responsible for the design and questions used throughout my 10-minute slideshow and presentation on emerging technologies in my LIM 562 course during our final live session. While I did not come up with the topic of “emerging technologies” myself, I did broadly categorize my findings into the areas previously mentioned. Once I organized my sources into those broad sub-topics, I designed a presentation using Keynote and exported it as a multi-page PDF for use with our live session software, Adobe Connect. During the presentation, Dr. Shih handed all presenting and navigation privileges to me, so I had to monitor slides along with my timing as I discussed the topic and asked my peers questions about the different areas of emerging technologies in library environments.
Skills and abilities. For any assignment submitted throughout the MLIS program, I had to make use of various technology skills, since the program exists entirely online. Using WebJunction’s Competency Index for the Library Field (Gutsche & Hough, 2014), these technology skills can be broadly classified as Core Technology Competencies, and include E-Mail, Hardware, Internet, Operating Systems, Software Applications, and Web Technologies for accessing course materials online, creating and editing shared documents, and compositing multiple videos together for submission.
In addition, for this Emerging Technologies Discussion Presentation, I used Collaboration skills in developing a presentation meant to be interrupted and discussed, featuring talking points in a different color than the informational text. These colored talking points acted as visual cues to those watching my presentation and allowed me to pace my presentation according to how many questions I had per section.
Having these talking points meant I also utilized Learning and Innovation skills, in trying to address discussion points from a variety of points of view and get my classmates to understand the different perspectives inherent in any conversation about technology. Researching the various areas of emerging technology also involved a great deal of Learning and Innovation skills on my part, especially since I had to think critically about which topics would be of particular interest to my cohort in the short timeframe the discussion assignment requirements allowed.
A discussion about technology inherently involves some level of Information Technology (IT) skills, and my background as an IT Help Center assistant and as a Service Assistant at Apple served me well in developing my presentation. Through the design and presentation of my chosen discussion topic, I demonstrated both photo program and presentation software proficiency, using a combination of Jumsoft’s Toolbox for iWork, Adobe Photoshop and Apple’s Keynote software to build the presentation.
Trends & Globalization Paper: MOOCs and Academic Libraries
Artifact course context and relationship to goal. My final paper on Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs) in academic library environments focused on a particular library issue trend of my choice from my first semester LIM 500 course. MOOCs are a topic of ongoing interest in the library community, especially as they relate to academic institutions that have an extension program or that offer online courses, similar to how the University of Southern California offers its Master of Management in Library and Information Science (MMLIS) program. However, USC’s MMLIS program would not fall under the traditional definition of a MOOC, not being massive (there are generally only double-digit attendees in each cohort, while some MOOC classes can draw several thousand participants), or open (students must be admitted to USC’s program through a formal graduate school application process, compared to the “click ‘sign up’ and you’re in!” format of most MOOCs). Though the exact definition of “MOOC” may vary (accounting for discrepancies in size and format), libraries are also centers of learning and innovation, and therefore can be great places for people to find resources for MOOCs, and may sometimes even serve as the physical classroom for students accessing these online courses from anywhere on the planet.
Roles, responsibilities, and process. Since the topic of my final paper for LIM 500 remained entirely up to me, I bear sole responsibility for the research, organization, and creation of my paper on MOOCs as an example of a library trend with potential global impact. The intersection of technology and the humanities has always fascinated me, and I see MOOCs as a great example of something that sits at that intersection. Having taken several MOOCs myself, I find them a topic of great interest and looked forward to finding a way to tackle their connection to a library environment in my paper. Research for the paper began in Week 9 of the course and culminated in a submission of the paper during Week 15. The assignment instructions specified that the final paper is no more than 2,000 words, which meant that I had to organize my research in such a manner that I would not overstate or understate the issue and its importance.
At present, I would not make the argument that MOOCs are an “emerging” technology, although there is a debate on whether they are still “current,” considering the popularity of MOOCs could be seen as having declined or plateaued. It is the debates over technology like MOOCs, which may disrupt traditional educational environments like libraries, that warrant continued examination from information professionals.
Skills and abilities. As previously mentioned, for any assignment submitted throughout the MLIS program, I had to utilized different technology skills, including those broadly classified as Core Technology Competencies (Gutsche & Hough, 2014). These include E-Mail, Hardware, Internet, Operating Systems, Software Applications, and Web Technologies for accessing course materials online, creating and editing shared documents, and compositing multiple videos together for submission.
Additionally, for this MOOCs and academic libraries paper, I used Learning and Innovation skills. In “learning about learning” and focusing on a topic of ongoing personal interest to me, I connected one method allowing people to demonstrate their commitment to learning as a lifelong process with librarianship. The assignment also afforded me the opportunity to critically reflect on my own experiences in MOOCs and apply that unique knowledge to my research and the resulting paper.
Research Methods Paper: Mobile Apps in Public Libraries
Artifact course context and relationship to goal. My final paper for my LIM 504 course began life as an introductory paper meant to entice readers into learning more about the role of mobile applications and their use in public libraries. The topic of the paper was entirely of my choosing (out of three ideas), though I did get feedback from both my instructor and peers on how relevant and interesting my possible topics were. The introductory version of the paper did not include a complete review of the literature but instead served to cover the main areas of discussion in the paper: the use of other mobile apps in libraries, and how and why libraries should have an app of their own. With more and more patrons walking into public libraries with smartphones in hand, it is important for libraries to “meet the patrons where they are” on these mobile platforms. In order to do so, librarians and other information professionals must understand the nature of mobile apps as a technology that can improve their organization’s effectiveness and service delivery.
Roles, responsibilities, and process. For my LIM 504 class, we began Week 2 by discussing possible topics for our individual final papers within our team. Based on the feedback from my teammates, I opted to examine the various uses of mobile apps in public library settings. Midway through the semester, I submitted an introductory version of my paper that covered the sub-topics presented in the literature: how and why public libraries use mobile apps, which organizations that specifically aid libraries in designing and implementing mobile apps, and innovative ways that libraries or library systems utilize mobile apps. Following instructor feedback, I expanded the paper somewhat into the final form submitted in the final week of the course.
Like MOOCs, mobile apps are far from being an “emerging” technology. However, mobile apps by and for libraries are a different matter altogether; libraries may not have jumped on the mobile app bandwagon very early, and as a result, the variety of functions within different library apps is staggering. Some only function as mobile versions of a library’s online catalog, while others are dynamic and offer information about individual branches, programs and events, reading lists, and more.
Skills and abilities. As previously mentioned, for any assignment submitted throughout the MLIS program, I had to utilize different technology skills, including those broadly classified as Core Technology Competencies (Gutsche & Hough, 2014). These include E-Mail, Hardware, Internet, Operating Systems, Software Applications, and Web Technologies for accessing course materials online, creating and editing shared documents, and compositing multiple videos together for submission.
For this paper on the use of mobile apps in public libraries, I also used Collaboration skills initially in discussing possible topics with my team, offering them feedback on their topics as well. We communicated openly and honestly with one another about the nature of our topics, despite the fact that the papers would be individually written, and not a team effort in any other way.
Short Paper: A Library’s Website as Gateway to the Community
Artifact course context and relationship to goal. The short paper that I submitted with a teammate for our LIM 503 course discussed a library’s website as a gateway to a community. It compared the websites of two major metropolitan library systems, the Los Angeles Public Library system (LAPL) and the New York Public Library system (NYPL). As with mobile apps, many people tend to expect libraries to have dynamic, interactive websites that cover what programs and services are available at the library, what books are available for checkout, and more. In examining the websites of two large urban library systems, my teammate and I sought to compare their use of current and emerging technologies to determine what other libraries might to in order to imitate the online success of these systems, regardless of library size, location, or type.
Roles, responsibilities, and process. My teammate and I collaborated to gather information about the web presence of both the LAPL and NYPL systems. We divided the work such that each of us captured information about a given system on both her computer and her smartphone, to determine the differences in how the systems make themselves accessible on screens of different sizes. We also noted similarities and differences in terms of what was readily apparent from each system’s main page: did they immediately list hours and locations, or did we have to click on a different link? Was there a dynamic slideshow highlighting current programs or collections? By tracking what we saw on each page that caught our attention, we developed a list of “what to look for” on each site: what was present, what was not present at all, and what was present, but in a different location depending on the library system website. Having a “watchlist” allowed us to write a paper that, while short, introduced the main portions of each system’s website and what other libraries hoping to have a well-designed, frequently accessed and useful website could look to imitate.
Skills and abilities. As touched on earlier, for any assignment submitted throughout the MMLIS program, I made use of various technology skills, including those broadly classified as Core Technology Competencies (Gutsche & Hough, 2014). These include E-Mail, Hardware, Internet, Operating Systems, Software Applications, and Web Technologies for accessing course materials online, creating and editing shared documents, and compositing multiple videos together for submission.
For my joint paper on a library’s website acting as a gateway to a community, I also utilized Collaboration skills to distribute the workload and develop a sense of shared ownership over the final work product.
I also used Learning and Innovation skills in brainstorming the topic with my teammate. Additionally, I used those same skills to effectively reason out what sorts of resources would be useful for a paper with a limited permissible length while still allowing us to make our point about a library website serving as a gateway to a community. We had to look at the website from multiple perspectives: existing patrons, would-be patrons, information professionals, and other stakeholders.
Finally, examining a library website is one way of evaluating a library’s marketing practices; this evaluation process could fall under Marketing and Public Relations competencies as a form of “ongoing dialogue with target audiences,” (Gutsche & Hough, 2014, p. 30) which in this case, could be library stakeholders responsible for the website branding, development, and maintenance.
Future Work Environments
Technology is going to continue playing a significant role in libraries of all types. Libraries aren’t merely repositories for books. Now, more than ever, libraries prominently feature current and emerging technology in the form of makerspaces equipped with 3D printers, virtual reality headsets, mobile tablets, and more. Technology plays a vital role in the impression of libraries as not just community gateways and information resources, but as effective service centers for all.
Gutsche, B. & Hough, B. (Eds.) (2014). Competency index for the library field 2014 (2nd ed.). Dublin, OH: OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.webjunction.org/documents/webjunction/Competency_Index_for_the_Library_Field.html