No New Technologies in Libraries?

At first I want to say that emtacl12, the conference on emerging technologies in academic libraries, that took place in Trondheim, was really great. We heard and saw interesting talks and presentations, had lively discussions, got a lot of new ideas for new services and how to do things better in future. But when I let these talks pass I notice that nobody presented really new technologies. There were for example presentations about how linked open data could be used for new approaches and services. So, when Richard Wallis showed the scheme of the LOD cloud on the last day, he wondered to be the first one to do this during the congress. But people who attended emtacl10 mentioned that it was already shown two years ago. LOD is for this community a well known technology, not emerging, but already here to stay.

So, did we hear nothing new at emtacl12? Of course, not! But it was not the technologies themselves, it was the way how libraries can use them for creating new services for researchers and students that predominated the presentations. There was for example Guus van den Brekel who showed how he creates with well known tools (WordPress, RSS) absolutely great new services for researchers. And in the last keynote by Brian Kelly I learned that exactly these WordPress blogs help you to ship a lot of traffic to your webpages. With this simple tools the academic output of researchers is better visible in the web.
I wanted to use this only as an example to illustrate a more general trend: the technologies are already here, libraries have now the task to use them in order to create new academic services and products. This is their main task today – and I don’t want to say that this is easier than to explore new technologies. The lively discussion of my presentation about introducing the method of innovation management in libraries showed me that this is one possible solution for the great task, the adaption of technology and the creation of new services by libraries.


5 thoughts on “No New Technologies in Libraries?

  1. So, I comment again on my own blog post and hope this is OK to you… There was a reply on my blog post on Twitter that I wanted to cite here:
    “@adrianstevenson: @mrudolf Disagree that “LOD is for this community a well known technology”. LOD not new, but I would say is definitively emergent #emtacl12″
    Adrian points to an important question arising with this discussion: when can we call a technology new (completely new), emerging or well known to a special community and when well known to the public? Or when can we call something an invention, a radical innovation or an incremental innovation or an improvement? – a question that was asked after my talk at emtacl12.
    I assume that there is a kind of a hype cycle for new technologies in libraries: it starts with the invention of a new technology, then comes the discussion among “nerds” (i.e. at conferences like emtacl…), then articles in academic journals, the first pilot projects showing how the new technology could be used in new services by libraries, the presentation of a paper at established big conferences (like the German Bibliothekartag) and then the broad adoption by libraries. Maybe we can indicate how long such a cycle lasts, how long it does take from the invention of a technology until the adoption by libraries? It would be an interesting topic for research…

  2. You may have noticed that “emerging technologies” is translated by Google into “neue Technologien”. As one of the inventors of the acronym emtacl 3 years ago, I have noticed that people have different opinions about the meaning of the word “emerging”. And that’s fine, as long as we all mean “somewhere on the rising part of the hype cycle graph”. Perhaps it’s a pity we did not choose “emergent” instead, allowing for even more interesting discussions :-)
    And lately I have discovered there’s an interesting antonym to emerge, namely “immerge”. Somewhere defined as “To submerge or disappear in or as if in a liquid”. Most interesting is that emerge and immerge seem to have identical pronounciations.
    Thank you by the way for your very interesting presentation at emtacl12!

  3. A case of “new vs. emerging & new to you”, maybe? LOD, which to my mind, while implementable today, hasn’t been explored to its full, and is therefore “emerging” in all fields. But this is the case with every “technology” that isn’t in a phase of being replaced. The ideas presented about near-field, HTTP-extensions are new to libraries and come from outside the library domain. I suppose there is little focus on development of really “new”, and more focus on adaptation, application and implementation because libraries have moved away from having in-house R&D to a more outsourced model, which means the groundwork is fixed and you _have_ to build on it.

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