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What is Emerging Technology?

The definition of ‘emerging technology’ is still emerging and will vary based on industry and personal opinion. Essentially, if you come across a little corner of tech that appears to be shrouded in uncertainty wrapped in a nice cocoon of mystery, you have probably come across emerging tech.

Naturally, this page will focus on emerging technology in the library. What else is there? Before deciding what is most important to your own library, let’s dive into what emerging tech means for the library. An article from the Journal of Technology Management and Innovation titled Emerging Technology: What is It, assigns these characteristics to emerging technology. The summaries below are paraphrased from the article:

  • Uncertainty these is no technology standard and no way of knowing if the technology will make or break a business. This tech is a bit risky.
  • Network Effects: technology is only effective if individuals and busineses adopt the technology. There is power in numbers.
  • Unseen Social and Ethical Implications: Most technology has multiple application types. Depending on the application, the short and long-term ethical implications of the technology are up for debate.
  • Costs are High: New technology can be expensive to research and build, so early adoption has a high price. It can also cost a lot to update old equipment to support the new stuff.
  • Limited to Particular Countries:There is unequal access to emerging technology. Low-income communities and countries cannot access this technology until it becomes mainstream.
  • Not fully Investigated or Researched: There are few reliable authority sources providing practical reviews on this technology. Much of the research is being provided by the people developing the technology, who also have a vested interest in gathering users.

How This Relates to Libraries

So what does this mean for emerging tech in the library? Below you will find that same list of characteristics with an interpretation of how it could relate to libraries.

  • Uncertainty: Many libraries do not have 'technology exploration and adaptation' in their library mission statement. Understandably so, because it takes a considerable amount of time and resources to launch an exploratory project into emerging tech.
  • Network Effects: Emerging technology is a risk, so libraries play it safe with emerging tech. Since there are few hardcore adopters outside of academic libraries, emerging technology doesn't tend to rank high in many other types of libraries.
  • Unseen Social and Ethical Implications: Emerging technology like blockchain, artificial intelligence, and drone technology have growing privacy concerns. Privacy and public safety are vital to libraries.
  • Costs are High: Libraries have to be careful with budgets and choosing technology tools that are sustainable and will suit library patron interest.
  • Limited to Particular Countries: Many libraries focus on equal access to information. This would indicate libraries may be more focused on providing learning tools and resources for library patrons to expland their knowledge bank.
  • Not fully Investigated or Researched: Libraries are all about reliable sources and making smart decisions about the information they provide. It's difficult to vet out a reliable source with little information about the subject at hand.

So far, this seems like an indicator to not go near emerging technology in the library. This is far from true. All this means is that libraries should think about emerging tech differently. Check out the next section to find recommendations for how emerging tech could be used. The section after that will recommend different categories of technology to begin focusing on.

How Emerging Tech is Relevant to Libraries

A quick Google search of 'emerging technologies 2018' will bring up a laundry list of stuff that is currently being researched, developed, or produced. Quite honestly, this technology is nice to know about but doesn't apply to most libraries. For example, laser guided surgery and helping hands in medical robotics are not applicable to libraries. What is applicable is a collection of resources to let patrons know what kinds of emerging technology exists in different industries.

Here are some examples of how emerging technology can apply to libraries:

  • Used in the physical library to improve library services
  • Teaching technology basics in the library
  • Learning about emerging tech to provide higher quality learning resources
  • Provide exposure to new technology to reduce the unequal access opportunities

Specific Examples of Emerging Tech in the Library

Now we have a basic definition of emerging technology and an idea of how emerging technology can apply to libraries. But of all the tech in all the world, what actually applies to libraries? Here are some examples:

  • Robotics
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Virtual Reality
  • Augmented Reality
  • Drones
  • Internet of Things
  • Video Games

This list is in no way exhaustive. It's more of a starting point. If you click the links above you can learn more about what each piece of emerging technology is and how it can be used in the library world.

For more information, contact Amanda Sweet.