D-Tech international looks at developing library technology, and predictions of how libraries will stay abreast of changing patron needs in the near, and perhaps less near, future.
At D-Tech, we are well aware of both the sustained demand for traditional library resources and facilities, and the necessity for the modern library to evolve with new technologies to accommodate changing user needs. Current technologies allow us access to a broader range of materials and resources than ever before, and libraries must keep up in order to provide the best service possible. The worn-out idea of the library as only a place to borrow print books is, of course, a total misconception, with libraries working hard to remain innovative when it comes to both virtual and physical resources.
One virtual advance that can be expected in the coming years are libraries further embracing the e-book: while many libraries already offer e-books through platforms such as OverDrive, an important aim for the future is for libraries to offer a full range of e-books and to ensure that they can be lent remotely. The ability to access library resources remotely is vital to future library use, with users desiring more and more to use library resources on the go, and libraries looking to establish themselves as a virtual space as well as a physical one. In particular, academic libraries are seeking to find ways to establish a ‘digital campus’, improving accessibility for students who may not be able to study within office hours. The key to this may be in the palm your hand, i.e. your mobile device: a commonly used app would be the ideal solution to the increased demand for remote access to and interaction with library resources. D-Tech is driving progress in this area with appIT™, the first app of its kind on the library market. Users of this app can access library services that would usually be constrained to a location such as checking out books, paying account charges, and chatting with library staff, but from anywhere they like. Libraries adopting this technology in the near future will be able to offer unheard of convenience to their patrons.
However, embracing virtual resources and remote access by no means undercuts the importance of the library as a physical space. While many library resources will expand into the virtual, the library itself will provide an important counteraction to the isolation that the internet age threatens for many. Key to this is its changing role: as creative, hands-on approaches to education become more popular the library must not only fulfil its traditional capacity as a place for independent study but also progress to meet demands for a creative, collaborative space. Libraries are making steps in this area by providing spaces such as active learning classrooms and media production studios. Many academic libraries are already adopting emerging technologies such as 3D printers, flexible displays and natural user interfaces – in the coming years, these cutting-edge technologies are likely to become more universally accessible.
The advances detailed so far are all things likely to become a reality in the short term: further away is the possibility of technologies more familiar from science fiction than from daily life crossing over into the library. For instance, artificial intelligence will play a role in tomorrow’s libraries; according to the 2017 edition of the Horizon report, intelligent machines and search engines are likely to help people locate relevant research more easily than ever. Augmented reality could also find its way into the library, through the concept of librARi invented by Pradeep Siddappa. This technology would allow users to view a version of the library through their device that would signpost the books that you are searching for, suggestions and new arrivals.
However, what is important regarding the technological advances in libraries both public and academic is that they are accessible. As the role of technology grows in the library, so does its role as a public space providing a bridge between the digital and the physical; in short ensuring that no one suffers from lack of access to technology or is left behind by the digital revolution. Libraries will be important in providing digital services and internet access to the many that lack confidence or skills in this area or cannot afford it at home. Another challenge is likely to be equipping librarians with the skills to keep up with this ever-evolving service, and to offer support in these areas.
At D-Tech international, we understand the importance of harnessing technology to improve the library experience in a way that is both innovative and accessible. If you would like to know more about appIT™ or any of our other products, please contact us or call on 01394 420077 or complete the contact form