18 tech trends transforming academic libraries

Big data, semantic web, infographcs, and more

A new report lays out the 18 technology-driven trends, challenges, and developments libraries are likely to face over the next five years. From the semantic web to makerspaces, eCampus News' Meris Stansbury breaks down what is on the horizon.

The predictions are outlined in the New Media Consortium's (NMC) 2015 Library Edition of their Horizon Report. A panel of 53 experts from 15 countries collaborated on the report.

Here is an overview of what they found.


Crafting the user experience: Both seasoned researchers and newcomers need intuitive interfaces for navigating libraries' huge stores of data.

Delivering mobile content: Libraries adjust to the expectations of users accustomed consuming mobile-friendly websites, apps, and e-books.

Recording scholarly research: This becomes more complex as research encompasses datasets, visualizations, and other new media.

Managing research data: Thanks to electronic publishing, users are hungry to explore how content connects and interacts over time.  

Providing open access: Major initiatives by the National Science Foundation and others show that open access is going mainstream.

Rethinking design: Library environments are better reflecting how libraries are actually used by students and including areas for study and hands-on work.


Integrating research libraries into curriculum: This has typically been done one an ad-hoc basis, but innovative colleges are embedding library skill development into course curricula.  

Improving digital literacy: Progress has been slow because experts disagree about digital literacy actually means, says Stansbury.

Competing with other sources of information: Libraries must improve their own discovery capabilities or they "risk becoming obsolete over time," Stansbury writes.

Hiring staff with the right skills: Hiring and integrating workers with skills like data mining and web development—and providing ongoing training—is a persistent challenge.

Keeping up: The pace of technological change is forcing libraries to think big. Doing so consistently requires support from leaders and staff throughout the community.

Prioritizing information: New tools allow writers and users to create content faster than ever, meaning staff need new tools for sorting, analyzing, and prioritizing the most relevant and helpful resources.

Technological developments

Makerspaces: Areas where students and faculty can access resources to create, tinker, and collaborate on hands-on projects are increasingly popular.

Related: Redefine your library's role for the digital age

Online learning: A well-established pillar of higher education, libraries are increasingly playing a role in guiding faculty and developing their own online resources.

Infographics: A newly popular way to spread compelling messages online and in print, particularly helpful for researchers who need to communicate abstract study results.

The Semantic web: A new computer science field that seeks to intelligently relate pieces of information online, the technology could allow for more accurate searches of library catalogs and databases.

Location-based services: Researchers could see new ways to discover and interact with content soon, such as indoor mapping technology.

Machine learning: These computer programs can "learn" from large datasets to perform extremely complex tasks, like classifying the huge bodies of information found in libraries (Stransbury, eCampus News, 8/18).

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