Discussion Topic: Technology and Libraries

'Power On' by Digger/ATL used under Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

‘Power On’ by Digger/ATL used under Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Libraries have always walked a fine line between preservation and implementing new technologies to support the user needs. So this time we thought we might shine the light on new technologies that we have seen in our and other libraries.

Back in 1963, IFLA founded the IFLA Section on Information Technology which has aimed to lead “the Federation through changes in computer and communications technology by introducing, describing, teaching, and predicting its use for information delivery” and in 1967 the Library of Congress MARC Pilot Project compiled the first MARC tags. Source

In the 70’s INFA reported on various areas of concern including:  “data formats and the new MARC II format, the emerging ISSN and possible “World Serials Data System”, new organizational structures for libraries resulting from the mechanization programs, user reactions to automation, and handling of the large data banks that were being created. Source

Then in the late 80’s and 90’s libraries tackled issues around making catalogues more accessible on the emerging internet, providing patrons access to computers and computer programs, delivering content electronically and the ever changing types of media (cassettes, CD Rom, beta, CD, video cassettes, etc)

 Probably the biggest discussion in recent times has been around ebooks. In 2013 Art Brodsky from Wired wrote an interesting piece titled The Abomination of Ebooks: They Price People Out of Reading where he outlined the massive gap between how ebook publishers treat end users vs libraries:

Take the example of J.K. Rowling’s pseudonymous book, Cuckoo’s Calling. For the physical book, libraries would pay $14.40 from book distributor Baker & Taylor — close to the consumer price of $15.49 from Barnes & Noble and of $15.19 from Amazon. But even though the ebook will cost consumers $6.50 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, libraries would pay $78 (through library ebook distributors Overdrive and 3M) for the same thing.

And earlier this year Amazon announced “Kindle Unlimited, a $10-per-month service offering loans of 600,000 e-books” prompting Geoffrey A Fowler of the Wall Street Journal to pen this: Why the Public Library Beats Amazon—for Now; As E-Book Subscription Services Grow Their Catalogs, the Age-Old Institution Trumps All. In his work, Fowler compares the ebooks on offer from the new Amazon service to those from his local library and finds (not surprisingly) that his local library had more popular titles and a better variety of ebooks. See his findings here.

So this week we ask you to reflect on how the library has used technology and how we will use it in the future.

Questions to consider

  • In relation to technology; what changes have you seen in your library , library sector or role?
  • How do you keep up with changes to technology?
  • What tech skills do you think librarians should have?
  • What is the ‘new thing’ at your library?
  • Do you have any new technology projects coming up soon?
  • Have you seen any cool tech things you would like to share?

You can also share you thoughts here on the ILN blog, on Facebook or on Twitter.

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