October 30, 2014

Top Tech Trends | ALA Midwinter 2014

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Codes of conduct and anti-harassment policies were listed among the leading current trends during the annual LITA Top Tech Trends panel.

 Contextualizing the code

ALA LITA“We’ve all been talking about ALA’s code of conduct, and I want to give a little bit of context for it; it comes out of the technology sphere,” said Brett Bonfield, director of the Collingswood (NJ) Public Library and a 2012 LJ Mover & Shaker. “If you want to change technology, one of the best tacks is changing the group of people who are creating the technology,” he added, arguing that codes of conduct help create a more welcoming environment for women and minorities.

Bonfield was joined on the panel by Lisa Bunker, social media librarian for Pima County (AZ) Public Library and 2012 LJ Mover & Shaker; Emily Gore, director of content for the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA); Leslie Johnston, director of the National Digital Infrastructure and Preservation Program at the Library of Congress (LC); John Shank, head of the Thun Library and Boscov-Lakin Information Commons at Penn State University; and moderator Monique Sendze, associate director of information technology for Douglas County (CO) Libraries.

In response to a growing number of documented incidents of sexual harassment at tech conferences, many tech communities began adopting anti-harassment policies in 2011, Bonfield explained. These policies are now becoming an established way for tech communities to educate attendees regarding unacceptable behavior at conferences and other professional gatherings, and to give attendees clearer avenues for reporting and documenting grievances.

“What the codes of conduct are about are increasing the number of people that are involved,” Bonfield said. “Democratizing participation, and making more comfortable workspaces for everyone.”

Johnston agreed. “Codes of conduct are not just about being fair to women in technology, they are about all forms of inclusiveness in technology. They are about stopping harassment for any group,” she said.

CSI: Library

Later noting that LC and other libraries are curating a growing number of born-digital collections and hybrid collections, Johnston described digital forensics as a top trend to watch. Broadly speaking, digital forensics refers to the recovery, investigation, and authentication of information stored on digital devices, and has historically been associated with law enforcement activities. But these activities are becoming increasingly important to libraries and archives as well, as they seek to recover and authenticate these unique digital items.

“We do not receive any personal collections anymore that do not include digital content,” she said. “All of the collections we receive now are hybrid collections,” containing both print content, such as letters, and content saved on media such as floppy discs or CDs, for example.

“In many cases, what we are receiving, what we are having to steward, what we are going to be caring for, is the only copy of media that this item may ever exist on,” she said.

Opening up

Both Gore and Shank discussed trends with the theme of openness.

“We use the term ‘open’ in our libraries consistently, whether it’s to refer to open access, open content, open source, open APIs, open data, open educational resources (OER), open textbooks, open knowledge, open scholarship, you name it,” said Gore.

Gore noted that last August, the Getty Museum released 4,600 images as open content, and that there have been similar releases from the Walters Art Museum, the British Library, and other cultural heritage agencies. Along with the images, associated metadata has been released as open content as well.

By making their resources more easily discoverable through DPLA, their partners are seeing a “mass reuse” of their data through the organization’s open API, Gore said. For example, she noted that the Minnesota Digital Library’s traffic is up 55 percent since joining DPLA.

“The tons of money that we [as a field] have spent on digital imaging and metadata creation often hasn’t had the return that administrators thought that it should over the years,” she said. “But by opening up this content and this metadata, it is clear that a return is coming.”

Gore added that organizations must make the permissions for open content clearer to end users.

“If an object is in the public domain, label it as such, and allow for its reuse by the public,” she said. “After all, it is public domain. If we all work together to do these things, then I believe we will see our use skyrocket.”

Shank focused on open educational resources (OER), beginning with a discussion of the rising cost of college textbooks, and how faculty at many institutions are beginning to respond to this issue by creating open textbooks.

“They provide digital access to those textbooks, whether on a computer or e-reader. And those types of textbooks are increasingly being seen as possible alternatives to the traditional model.”

These open textbooks aren’t just offering students a way to save money. The digital format enables faculty to present content in new ways, by embedding video, podcast, apps, or interactive content such as quizzes.

“What’s interesting, too, is that when you start to do anything in a digital format, the imagination can fly, and the ways in which you create textbooks can begin to change,” Shank said.

Social signposts

Bunker concluded the panel with a discussion of emerging trends in social media, noting that hashtags have moved beyond their role of grouping conversation threads on Twitter to become a cross-platform tool.

“Hashtags are now part of the system for Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter. What this means is that if you have a very large event, you can put an event hashtag out beforehand and have signs at the event inviting people to hashtag their photographs and comments,” she said. “Afterward, you can create something using Storify to pull together all of the comments [and photos] about your event into one story, and really see the power of what the program is. Tell the story afterward, help build buzz for your next program, and use it to thank your partners.”

Bunker also encouraged libraries to experiment with regular posts that give their followers a sense of place. The Hillsdale (NJ) Public Library, for example, makes Facebook posts of a regularly changing signboard in front of its building.

“It’s something that’s going to make your library’s posts really stand out from the rest of the kind of commercial interests [on social media],” she said.

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Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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