Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

NMC Horizon Report: Libraries


Last week, the NMC (New Media Center) released its 2015 Horizon Report, Library Edition.  These reports are tech-centered – essentially, what technologies could impact libraries in the near-, mid-, and long-term, as well as the challenges libraries face in implementing these technologies.  I find it a little strange that technology reports like this are released every year – do the developments and impacts of technology really change that quickly?  Did any of the mid- and long-term technologies “move up” to near-term?  While the organization has published reports going back to 2011 or earlier, their library edition only started last year.  So there are only 2 years to compare.

2015 2014
Technology adoption
  • Long-term
  • Increasing Accessibility of Research Content
  • Rethinking Library Spaces
  • Continual Progress in Technology, Standards, and Infrastructure
  • Rise of New Forms of Multidisciplinary Research
  • Mid-range
  • Evolving Nature of the Scholarly Record
  • Increasing Focus on Research Data Management
  • Evolving Nature of the Scholarly Record
  • Increasing Accessibility of Research Content
  • Short-Term
  • Increasing Value of the User Experience
  • Prioritization of Mobile Content and Delivery
  • Increasing Focus on Research Data Management for Publications
  • Prioritization of Mobile Content and Delivery
Challenges
  • Solvable
  • Embedding Academic and Research Libraries in the Curriculum
  • Improving Digital Literacy
  • Embedding Academic and Research Libraries in the Curriculum
  • Rethinking the Roles and Skills of Librarians
  • Difficult
  • Competition from Alternative Avenues of Discovery
  • Rethinking the Roles and Skills of Librarians
  • Capturing and Archiving the Digital Outputs of Research as Collection Material
  • Competition from Alternative Avenues of Discovery
  • Wicked
  • Embracing the Need for Radical Change
  • Managing Knowledge Obsolescence
  • Embracing the Need for Radical Change
  • Maintaining Ongoing Integration, Interoperability, and Collaborative Projects
Developments
  • <=1 yr
  • Makerspaces
  • Online Learning
  • Electronic Publishing
  • Mobile Apps
  • 2-4 yrs
  • Information Visualization
  • Semantic Web and Linked Data
  • Bibliometrics and Citation Technologies
  • Open Content
  • 4-5 yrs
  • Location Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • The Internet of Things
  • Semantic Web and Linked Data

So, what does this table tell us about the developments and impacts of technologies on libraries – at least, as indicated in these reports?  Most of the “trends accelerating technology adoption” identified in 2014 carried over to the 2015 report; however, it is interesting that half of them “moved down” from shorter-periods to longer-term periods.  Increasing the accessibility of research content was noted as having “been gradually growing, largely due to the open content movement as more libraries facilitate open access models for research outputs” (2015, p. 1).  The reasons for the shift of research data management are less clearly stated.  In the summary of this section in the 2014 report, the issues listed include the Open Access movement, leading to growth in institutional repositories and the resulting growing collaborations.  For 2015, the issues shifted to being more technical in nature, including dealing with the “(e)nhanced formats and workflows” and linking the data to publications (2015, p. 14).

There was similar overlap of challenges between the two reports – but with only one shift…re-thinking the roles and skills of librarians moved from Solvable in 2014 to Difficult in 2015.  Why was this problem considered solvable last year, but now is difficult to solve?  The report does not explicitly explain the change, but the issues described in the 2014 focused on three issues: the rise of the “super-liaison” (requiring librarians to “meet the expectations of their specified discipline while recognizing opportunities for further development and innovation”); the expectation of librarians to “become more involved in the campuswide curriculum in an instructional context” (requiring librarians to gain pedagogical knowledge and skills); and the growing expectation of “librarians to deepen their understanding of the analysis and preservation of research” (requiring them to gain skills in research methods and data management) (2014, p. 22).  The report provides examples of libraries adapting their positions to meet these needs; thus, this problem seemed solvable.  The issues addressed in the 2015 report expand on those in the prior year’s report, but with a realization that solutions at the individual library level are not enough.  They report on the increase of technical skills listed in library job listings combined with the Forbes Magazine conclusion that the MLS is the worst educational investment.  They note that “it often takes large-scale organizations to establish major policy precedents,” and they provide examples of the Council of Australian University Libraries (CAUL) and Association of Research Libraries (ARL). Essentially, the authors realized that this problem extends into the core values and education of librarians.

I am surprised that there was only one technological development that appeared in both reports – semantic web and linked data.  Not surprisingly, this moved from longer-term trend (4-5 yrs) to mid-term (2-4 yrs), primarily due to the BIBFRAME protocol.  But what happened to the others from the 2014 report?  Did they overestimate the impact of the internet of things and open content?  Have bibliometrics and citation technologies and mobile apps been fully-incorporated into our routine services?  Well, that’s a key limitation of these kinds of environmental scans and consensus opinions – the experts tend to be biased by the issues important at the time.  Of course, that’s the point – what is important at this point in time.

So, it is clear that the experts consulted for this report believed that much of the technological issues that were important to libraries last year are still important this year, albeit with some changes in urgency.  I found the Challenges section the most informative and interesting.  I wonder what technologies will appear in the 2016 report.

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This entry was posted on September 7, 2015 by in Academic Libraries, LIS Research.
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