Core Competency H: Emerging Technologies
“Demonstrate proficiency in identifying, using, and evaluating current and emerging information and communication technologies.”
I believe that Library and Information Science (LIS) professionals play a vital role in increasing the impact of information resources by harnessing the power of promising emerging technologies. An emerging technology may be old or new, but either way is one that carries a risk of adopting (Martinez, 2013). Even if an emerging product is technically superior, Martinez (2013) says they also tend to be “disruptively different from traditional products that consumers are familiar with,” and that convincing people to use the new product is often extremely difficult. LIS professionals can help the adoption process by being aware of emerging technologies, evaluating them, and making recommendations to their institutions and users.
Not only being aware of emerging technologies, but also being able to identify promise in them is important, because not all technologies will survive the adoption phase. For example, there are a multitude of social bookmarking and social media products, many of which will not exist five years from now. Libraries and other information organizations must be cognizant of this and determine which emerging products to put their time into based on a thorough evaluation of the options.
To this extent, LIS professionals must be cognizant on behalf of their employer. The American Library Association recognizes this and requires that accredited LIS masters programs “integrate the theory, application, and use of technology,“ (Standard II.3.3, Office of Accreditation, 2008). However, they make no more specific recommendations on what to teach LIS students about technology. Scripps-Hoekstra, Carroll, and Fotis (2014) found that only 78% of library and information schools have technological knowledge requirements, either for admittance, graduation, or both; even fewer had any formal assessment of skills. San José State University, however, does incorporate a strong technological component in its LIS degree program.
In a panel at a meeting of the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) Emerging Technologies Interest Group, guests discussed the question, “What is your library doing about emerging technologies?” (Erdman and Kim, 2010). Panelists described a new job opportunity in emerging technology librarians, who are very technologically adept and spend their time experimenting with different emerging technologies to find those that have the best potential for library adoption. Not only should emerging technology librarians be technologically literate, Erdman and Kim (2010) also noted that they must be tolerant of risk and frustration, flexible and creative, and interested in collaborating with other librarians to identify aspects of the library’s external or internal structure that could benefit from new technologies.
As I stated above, emerging technology librarians and other LIS professionals need to recognize emerging technology tools that are useful and that will last. Scripps-Hoekstra, Carroll, and Fotis (2014) evaluation based on product support, other user buy-in, existing examples, and cost of conversion/migrating. Martinez (2013) says that emerging technologies should either solve a currently unsolvable problem, produce an existing product for more value or less money, or respond uniquely to new regulation. If a proclaimed emerging technology does not do any of these three, its adoption may be unnecessary (or it may just not be “emerging”). While the LITA panelists urged libraries to be innovative within their environments, they also warned against jumping on emerging technology bandwagons without thoroughly considering the reasons for doing so (Erdman and Kim, 2010).
Managing emerging technology projects in libraries and other information organizations can be difficult because the product itself may be unclear or unfamiliar, which makes assigning staff responsibilities difficult (Erdman and Kim, 2010). The LITA panelists advocate developing a technology vision to help guide emerging technology adoption. This vision can be incorporated into the institution’s larger vision and strategic plan. The panelists further noted that when designing a technology vision or more specific project plans, LIS professionals should be careful to define failure loosely to encourage the use of emerging technologies while acknowledging that they are inherently risky (Erdman and Kim, 2010).
EVIDENCE 1. Mobile websites are an important part of modern day web design, and a constantly emerging frontier. In LIBR 287 – Mobile Design, I learned what features create usable mobile sites, as well as the technology to make them come to life. The evidence I present here is a wireframe outline of my mobile site design for the Jepson Herbarium Interchange (which already exists as a desktop website and is not produced by me). I analyzed the existing website to determine what pages and features could be improved for mobile access, and my wireframe shows the final schema, including different actions for different pages, and transitions between pages. I also included several features in the mobile site that do not exist in the desktop one; for example, APIs pull data from external sites like CalPhotos, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, CalFlora, and iNaturalist. The final mockup that I created based on this wireframe had functional navigation, search features, and API integration.
EVIDENCE 2. SVG, or Scalable Vector Graphic, is a lightweight image format that allows websites to edit images on the fly, use small animations, and have interactive features. Although SVG is an older technology, its use in web design is currently underappreciated, and on the verge of emerging with much more prevalence.
In a discussion post for LIBR 240 – Information Technology Tools and Applications, I explored what SVG is and how it fits into the current state of web design. Because SVG images can be assigned IDs and classes, they can also be styled with CSS, which makes them very versatile. I also covered SVG’s accessibility and browser compatibility, and sparked response from my classmates by posing questions on how we can incorporate SVG into our own designs.
EVIDENCE 3. This artifact is a transcript of a common PHP functions file I wrote for my final website in LIBR 246 – PHP/MySQL. As many web programmers do, I wrote the majority of my PHP functions in this external file, and referenced it from individual web pages; this particular common functions file supported a mock library website. The included functions do tasks like check my registered user database, add people to the database, and find results from the book search. While PHP is not an emerging technology, it is a core programming language for various web products, and my knowledge of it can help me evaluate these.
Emerging technologies are a constant source of inspiration for library and information science, and I am excited to incorporate them into my career. As a lifelong learner, I intend to keep up on current and potential technologies and products whether or not it is part of my job description. My foundational skills in programming languages and web design give me an understanding to base evaluation on, and make it easier for me to adapt to new emerging technologies or products.
Erdman, J.M., and Kim, B. (2010). What is your library doing about emerging technologies? LITA Emerging Technologies Interest Group Program. Washington, DC: American Library Association Annual Meeting. doi: 10.1080/07317131.2011.574522
Office of Acceditation. (2008). Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Science. Chicago, IL: American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/offices/accreditation.
Martinez, J. L. (2013), Practitioner's Insight: Learning to Manage Emerging Technologies. Creativity and Innovation Management, 22: 6–9. doi: 10.1111/caim.12012
Scripps-Hoekstra, L., Carroll, M., and Fotis, T. (2014). Technology competency requirement of ALA-accredited library science programs: An updated analysis. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 55(1): 40-54.