Top 5 Technologies for LibrariansThe library used to include a Systems Librarian. Someone whose role was to ensure that the library was well provisioned by technology and that the systems used by the library were up to date. I recall one law library that was so ahead of the game that the IT department would come to the library to look for new ideas! The Systems Librarian post is still very much in evidence in higher educational institutions but government and special or corporate libraries rarely have this position today, such are the pressures on cost and staff levels.

The need for innovation in libraries does not require a Library Manager to have deep knowledge of technology but there is a need to be aware of what technology can do and how user services might be positively impacted.

Such is the way of life today. What was once deemed state of the art can soon be out-dated. A library automation systems supplier can inform the library of technology but only if that supplier is truly at the forefront of change. It is useful for the librarian to know which technologies are driving change, to improve service delivery.

Here is a list of technologies to keep abreast of:

1. HTML 5 is a developer resource.

You have probably heard of HTML and left it for the web masters to play with. But HTML has moved on and the latest published and emerging standards have changed the game and upped options to another level. Even if you don’t know how to use HTML5 and apply it, the potential for it to be exploited needs to be understood. eBook formats are one of the products that can exploit this technology.

2. Search

This has the potential to impact every aspect of service delivery. How information is indexed and accessed is at the heart of every library service. Knowledge of developments in search technology and how it can be applied is really important. Search technology (Discovery Search) developed for education has become more popular with corporate establishments but is not necessarily ideal. It has just been very well marketed. Awareness of what search technology could be applied to and how natural language enhancements will aid service development, could give a new edge to the library service.

3. Digital Rights Management

This technology is more significant than simply managing copyright of items being acquired. Knowledge of how digital content can be published and protected for an institution can open up new lines of business for a library service. The library is seen as a safe harbour and becomes a digital publisher and distribution service. It is a new perspective and one that we have already seen applied in corporate libraries with some success.

4. Database Tools

It used to be the case that librarians created their own databases. They designed systems to make their data accessible. This is no longer the case. Fewer staff, more sophisticated systems, changing technologies, service demands all play their part. Excel is not a database but as a tool it can help manage all forms of data. Knowing how a database can be structured helps the library service deliver improved results for users. A supplier may deliver the actual implementation but the knowledge to guide the process by knowing what you want as the end result and what is possible is very empowering. An informed librarian is better able to plan and prepare services for example, knowing that linked data can be incorporated within the existing library database.

5. Harvesting tools

The need for risk assessments may not be in a library’s brief but information that directly helps the organisation, withstand outside pressures or protects staff or customers, is an opportunity for the library to innovate. We are not interested in “web hacker” software that was around 10-15 years ago, essentially an archiving tool. Collecting unstructured data from a wide variety of sources that appears on web pages and distilling that into meaningful data could be a technology that makes a significant difference to your business. Data collected in this way can be cross-referenced with other conventionally published sources to reveal new insights. It is definitely a technology to be aware of.

These are our thoughts! What tools have you found to help librarians today?

Author
Graham Beastall – Senior Consultant and Managing Director. Graham’s background is in Accountancy, Public Administration and Organisational Theory with a deep technical understanding of databases and web technologies. More posts by Graham.
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