Library Technology in 2017

Library Technology in 2017

3-D Printers on display

Technology has the ability to completely change the way in which industries operate. Libraries are not immune to the effects that emerging innovations and technology can have on the services they provide to patrons.

The past decade has seen a number of advancements in a variety of areas, and this year is poised to see further creative and novel technologies affecting the industry landscape. Here are the top six technologies and innovations to look out for in 2017:

E-reader apps

Last July, the New York Public Library launched their SimplyE platform, an app for smart devices aimed at making e-book borrowing, browsing and reading simpler and more intuitive. This debut marked the beginning of a push for library systems across the country to develop their own e-reader apps for their communities. In an effort to spur this innovation, the New York Public Library made the software underlying the SimplyE app open source so that other libraries could utilize the code in their own development efforts.

The potential for libraries to reach a greater and more diverse array of community members through robust e-reader apps is one of the great technological possibilities for 2017. As more libraries develop their own apps, the integration of such features as text-to-speech for vision-impaired patrons will help forge new avenues for increased library usage by formerly underserved groups.


Academic libraries have their own set of technological advances to look forward to in the coming year. One of the greatest current challenges facing these institutions is how to best facilitate the sharing of research and scholarly developments across organizations to enable learning and progress. SHARE is an initiative spearheaded by academic librarians to increase the availability of research, as well as make such research more discoverable. In order to achieve this objective, SHARE aims to build an open and free data set through better deployment of metadata.

For academic librarians, the increasing reach of the SHARE initiative represents an exciting opportunity to better serve their patrons. SHARE relies on the continued involvement by community members to add to the metadata available as well as to refine the underlying code. As SHARE continues to grow and incorporate a greater range of available research, the potential for academic libraries is vast.

Users Generated Their Own E-Content

E-learning businesses aren’t the only groups generating their own digital content in 2016, according to Training Journal. This source cited research from learning management system producer Create eLearning, which claimed user-generated content (UGC) would be one of 2016′s key corporate e-learning trends. This trend builds on the precedent set by social media, where more people take ownership of content in the digital world.

During 2016, skilled employee learners increasingly documented their own knowledge for the use of other learners. Proliferating user-friendly and accessible personal digital publishing tools such as Prezi and SlideShare has fueled this trend. According to Mark Taggart, chief executive officer of Create eLearning, to Training Journal the UGC that skilled learners create is often viewed as more trustworthy than e-content provided by other sources.


The technological tools needed to collect data are already in use at many libraries across the country, but understanding and analyzing that data to help librarians perform their jobs more effectively has often been elusive. Enter OBLIque, a software tool designed to make this analytical process easier. Librarians need to utilize data to understand their acquisitions, circulation and cataloging in order to make better decisions in these areas going forward. OBLIque makes this process seamless and automatic. For school and academic libraries, this innovative technological tool can help librarians examine usage on a variety of metrics, including a student’s academic level, the collection’s age, and more. For the vast numbers of libraries that face pressure to bring their acquisitions in line with their patron’s needs, the potential for OBLIque to make this process simpler is huge.

3-D printers

The range of applications for 3-D printers is incredible, but many people do not have access to this pricey equipment. Libraries of all kinds have the potential to provide a valuable service by allowing greater access to this groundbreaking technology. For librarians who wish to remain at the forefront in the field’s reputation for supporting technological competency and digital leadership, expanding the use of 3-D printers presents an exciting opportunity in the year ahead.

3-D printers have been used to create everything from prosthetic limbs to 10-story homes, and libraries offer a unique window into this emerging technology for their patrons. While these devices are not inexpensive, the investment can pay off in dividends as communities are provided insight into one of the next great technological innovations. However, as with so many technological advances, all librarians should reflect on how the promotion of the 3-D printing experience bodes with best practices regarding intellectual property rights.


Libraries have long been at the forefront of documenting and incorporating new media into their collections. From phonographic records and filmstrips in the 1950s to videotapes in the 1980s, maintaining multimedia collections has been key for libraries to stay relevant to their communities as technology advances. The last decade has seen an explosion in social media, and this forum is as historically important for libraries to preserve as newspapers were in the prior century. In order to meet this need, a preservation tool called DocNow has emerged to help libraries contribute to the collection, preservation and use of the history of social media information.

For librarian archivists, this new, innovative system will play great importance in the coming year. The possibilities for this database in aiding students and academics involved in sociological and historical research are staggering.


While makerspaces themselves have been made available in libraries for several years now, new technologies that many public and academic libraries are beginning to adopt will help change and evolve the library makerspace culture. For the uninitiated, makerspaces–otherwise known as “fablabs,” “hackspaces” or “hackerspaces” — are collaborative environments in which interested individuals can come together to work on various do-it-yourself (DIY) projects and inventions as they share their ideas and seek inspiration. This type of communal gathering of “makers” of all ages has been commonplace across the country after an upstate New York library held the first such makerspace for their patrons.

However, many new technologies that are only just beginning to see widespread adoption in libraries across the country, such as 3-D printers, laser scanners, wire benders, new software systems, and new robotic kits, will help make 2017 a banner year for library makerspaces. These innovations have the potential to reinvigorate libraries as gathering spaces for learning and development.

Are you interested in learning how to incorporate emerging technologies into your career as a librarian? An online Master of Management in Library and Information Science from the University of Southern California can help teach you the important foundations of the industry, as our instructors prepare you to take a role at the forefront of the wave of technological innovations in the field of library and information science. To discover more about our online program, visit the University of Southern California online today.