This week we looked at some emerging technology and unique ways libraries are using popular technology to assist patrons and staff. The thing that most resonated with me in the text reading was the fact that libraries have to be careful to purchase and utilize technology for the right reasons. Buying for “technolust” is a good way to blow an already small library budget. Completing surveys and collecting qualitative observations about users is a good way to determine if the potential technology purchase is a want or a legitimate user need. A small local college, who shall remain nameless, decided to buy 30 iPads before completing any sort of data research on user needs, long story short the iPads went un-used because students could not use them to complete assignments or print as the printers were not able to print wirelessly. The 30 iPads were eventually sent to instructors to be used for remote work and checking emails. For this small college 30 iPads ate up the entire technology budget for a year. Determining wants from needs can be tricky, but it is worth the time spent to ensure budgets are being spent wisely.
In the video Sauers discusses many types of newer technologies that are currently on the market. I was most intrigued by librarians using crowd funding to help pay for projects and technology. This is a great way to market services while obtaining funding when you have limited means to play with. Another technology that would be beneficial is a 3D printer, our Architecture Studies Library has one, but as Sauers was discussing the ways medical libraries have used the printers to recreate body parts I thought of a way our main library could utilize the technology. We loan anatomical models for nursing and biology majors to use to study before tests, these models are very expensive and are easily broken. Using the 3D printer we could potentially recreate broken pieces or students could print their own miniature models for study at home. One thing I am curious about is personal monitors and if libraries are using them for anything. Like Sauers I wear a FitBit Flex because my health insurance gives me a $50 discount per month. I completed a quick Google search of FitBit and library and another personal fitness tracker and library, nothing relevant popped up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if public libraries circulate these types of items. My local library circulates all sorts of weird items including paintings and kitchen gear.
Other libraries offer “technology petting zoos” for patrons and staff to explore technology before committing to a large purchase. This is a nice option because patrons don’t have to feel pressure from sales people if they are trying to explore at a traditional store. This is also a great way for staff to promote current library services and technology while providing one on one training and support.
The text discusses training with implementation and request for purchase of new technology. The process for implementing and choosing large budget items at my university is pretty intense. For the past two years the Integrated Library Systems Task Force has been investigating moving from our current ILS to an updated one. We formed hundred of pages of needs and wants and sat down with several vendors for daylong presentations and hands on demonstrations. We are now at the RFP process where campus looks at the work we have done and decides which vendor (if any) is suitable and meets our laundry list of qualifications. After this is decided the contract negotiation begins and the budget is set. Then comes implementation and training for all 200+ student assistants and staff. These major technology changes brings stress, but also the opportunity to better serve our patrons and update our workflows to match the work being done rather than working around a system.
The overall theme of the readings from the text and the article by Breeding is that technology is constantly changing, but you don’t need to worry about learning everything just focus on what your users want, what betters your library and to roll with the punches. Technology can be very frustrating because staff often have little to no training on it and when it breaks is always when IT staff are off or unavailable. Learning to be flexible and try and troubleshoot to the best of my abilities has got me out of some tricky situations. Professional development on key library technologies is essential and having staff on hand who are comfortable training others and assisting with the use of key technologies is important. Not everyone has the same comfort level or background experience, but to have at least one person in each department who could help with informal training would be ideal.