Library and information science technology is evolving rapidly. Innovations that were novelties just a few years ago are becoming commonplace — all while new technologies continue to be introduced.
This is why flexibility and adaptability are important traits for future library and information science leaders. Whether they aspire to work in business, libraries or elsewhere, LIS leaders are often tasked with learning new and different ways to do their jobs.
Below, find four technology trends impacting LIS professionals in 2020.
The Consolidation of LIS Companies
American Libraries Magazine reports that, in 2019, the LIS industry saw an interesting trend: companies were merging or being bought out by larger competitors. Ex Libris acquired Innovative Interface and Rapid ILL, Constellation Software purchased BiblioCommons, Springshare purchased QuestionPoint, and Axiell acquired Bibits. While this trend could be viewed as negative, it actually supports the further development of LIS technology in two important ways:
The consolidation of various LIS companies can accelerate the development of new technology. It can also foster the expansion of promising existing technology that is not currently being used to its full potential. As large firms tend to have more development capacity than small companies, they are able to take a small firms promising innovations, tweak them to improve their capabilities and then market them to a larger audience. Additionally, though it is common for the consolidation of various companies to result in the elimination of legacy technology, that has not been the case in the LIS industry. Very few products have been discontinued and companies that have bought out small firms often continue to offer support for the small firms’ former clients and programs.
Large companies can look past a niche market to create products that not only serve schools and public libraries but also their parent institutions and even entire communities. New LIS products/services currently being developed include reading-list applications, discovery services for open educational resources, research information systems and protocols to connect public libraries with student information systems.
The Expanded Use of 3-D Printers
The 3D Printing Media Network reports that, in 2013, there were only 250 3-D printers available in libraries throughout the United States. By 2017, the number had risen to 584. Some recent numbers indicate that there are now around 800 such printers in libraries across the country. They are often found in school and government institutions.
Many libraries have printer clubs that teach young people how to use the cutting-edge technology. Patrons who haven’t purchased their own 3-D printers but need to use them on occasion often head to the local library to print out needed items or create new, innovative products for personal or business use. Researchers are using 3-D printers for tasks such as creating prototypes of field equipment and printing customized trays for the genetic labeling of animal eggs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rise in the use of 3-D printers to create face shields for first responders. The Wilton Bulletin reports that Wilton Library has been able to churn out five plastic face shields a day on its 3-D printer, and the library has already begun donating these shields to a local hospital. The American Library Association notes that El Dorado County Library has partnered with the El Dorado Community Foundation to print face shields in the library’s large 3-D print lab. As of April 2020, 700 of these shields have been delivered to medical workers.
Continued Development of Virtual Reality Technology
The use of virtual reality in libraries will continue to trend up this year and in the future. Researchers at McGill and Concordia Universities have found VR technology commonplace at ARL-member libraries. Public libraries are also using VR to enable patrons of all ages to enjoy virtual views of cities, states, museum collections, natural areas and more.
Additionally, virtual reality is being used as a tool to help children and adults visualize what the future could look like in certain settings. Santa Cruz public libraries, for instance, offer patrons a virtual reality view showing what Santa Cruz’s coastline would look like if the sea level rose by a projected 2.4 feet and the city was hit with a 100-year storm.
The Growth of Gamification
Libraries have long offered board games such as chess, checkers and Candyland. Now they are turning to computer games to reach audiences that are used to the visual and auditory experience that computer games provide.
The American Library Association points out that there are many good reasons for libraries to use gamification to reach children, young people and even adults who are hesitant to pick up a book. These include:
- Games provide stories and information
- Games can encourage critical thinking and improve problem-solving skills
- Games have literary value
- Social games can help improve language skills
- Educational games can provide children with literary activities related to learning how to read, write and spell
- Games can enrich one’s vocabulary and help players learn about word etymology
- Games have cathartic value, helping players release aggressive emotions in the virtual world rather than the real one.
Gamification is a trend that impacts a number of industries outside of library science — it is often used for marketing, education and more.
LIS Technology Across Industries
Library and information science technology is a field that has enormous impacts across industries and careers. A Master of Management in Library and Information Science degree can help prepare students in a wide variety of fields to incorporate current and future technologies into their communities. To learn more, visit the USC Marshall School of Business MMLIS program online.