Until I started reading blogs and even more magazine articles, there were new technologies appearing in public libraries in Australia, which I had either barely heard of, or knew nothing about. Which of course, then led to the mad scramble for more information. The lesson being the importance of keeping current, even more so in this era when the public library is so much more than just books.
However, having said that, keeping current doesn’t mean that every new technology, or even most, are going to be applicable or viable to public libraries on any large scale. Yes we will always be updating our computers and the software on them, and getting wireless connectivity in our branches, all for our patrons, eventually, but what about all the new bells and whistles that are continually arriving on our shores.
I read an item recently from a small town US public librarian, who said that new technology was great and cutting edge library applications of it were inspiring, but that their users were low-tech and it would be years before there was a critical mass of users with the interest and/or technology to access the sort of applications the library could provide. I am in the same sort of environment here, in a low tech pickup area, besides mobile phones of course and sometimes my dreams are a lot larger than the reality here. Sigh!
But back to the future. There have been a lot of prophets seeking to forecast the future, especially in IT, but I found Way of the future by Tim Dean and David Kidd (PC Authority June 2004) to be an interesting and relevant peek. It won an IT writers award and even though it is a year old, it was helped me to stand back and see a little of the bigger picture of what my public library may have to deal with in the next few years, instead of just grabbing at the pieces of the puzzle as they came flying past me.
So what is the future according to Dean and Kidd? For the full details you should read the article, it is well worth it. But in summary, and I like what they say, it is Voice Over IP, RFID,
Wireless broadband, Microsoft Longhorn, Digital TV, DVR’s, speech recognition, fuel cells, smartphones and ubiquitous networking. Most of it is probably new in itself, but in the not too distant future, it will be cheaper, bigger and beater and even more accessible and relevant to the average person on the street.
The PC will get big and better and faster, there is no doubt. I think however, that this article helps remind me that its not all just in or out of the PC, but in the whole package of IT, that the future may explode into realities we haven’t yet considered. In the meantime, its nice to know which direction we are going in, even if the journey goes farther than we expect.