How current is your library? 5 of the latest tech trends

September 28, 2017
Clare Brown

In a world where girl scouts are able to earn badges in robotics and cyber security1, it pays to keep up with technology. Particularly when it comes to your library. Work practices are evolving at rapid rates, and failure to grow your skillset with them could well be detrimental. When was the last time you posed the question, how current is your library? We’ve compiled a roundup of the latest tech trends to guide you through the confusing maze.

How Current is Your Library? 5 of the Latest Tech Trends

“[...] something bigger is happening with the legal professionals we’ve long called law librarians. They are wearing an increasing number of hats these days, and a major one has become legal technologist.”

Robert Ambrogi (2017)2

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Oh, AI. Some might say, the most overused term of recent years. But just because the term might be cited excessively, doesn’t mean it should go ignored. AI, or rather artificial intelligence, is set to play an increasingly important role in all of our working lives.

For starters, AI can already add a whole new component to your search techniques. Natural language processing, one particular form of AI, takes the wider context and intent of each word or term into account. This means that it is easy for you to surface an incredibly specific set of search results, containing only the most relevant information, making your search more efficient. What’s more, there’s also now the scope to understand the overarching meaning of articles being searched, as opposed to solely the meaning of the words within them.

Then there’s popular products like Amazon’s Alexa. Though typically used at home, we’re hearing more and more stories of Alexa finding a home in businesses across the world. What if she could read your patrons their current awareness updates each morning? Now, that’s one way to increase engagement.

If you think creatively, there are numerous different ways by which existing AI technology can help you build a smarter library. Plus, with plenty more developments set to come, this is certainly one to watch for the future.


I know, video’s been around for a long time now. So what purpose does it serve on a list of the newest library tech?

Consider this more of a reminder to bring it into your library service. With offices and workers more distributed than ever, it’s highly possible that you and your patrons aren’t even in the same country let alone the same building. As I’m sure you’re more than aware, this makes getting people engaged with library training and utilising the service a bit of challenge.

Video, however, is a reasonably simple way to offer the best of both worlds - the feel of in-person training that just happens to be on demand. Who wouldn’t rather watch a two minute explainer video instead of reading a how to guide, especially when they’ve been consuming text all day?

The Virtual Library

With the majority of libraries now being fully digitised (or at least heading in that direction) it could well be assumed that most libraries are already virtual. But what if that virtual library could act as a one stop shop for every aspect of your library and information service?

Imagine your patrons being able to log onto a library portal where they can run any searches they need to, access all resources available to the firm, chat with you and fellow Librarians via a messenger style app, set up instant video calls for more detailed reference questions and specific training, review a fully functioning help portal and read all their current awareness updates. All in one place.

We might not be quite there yet, but I’m pretty sure this is the direction in which we’re headed.

Internet of Things

We’ve all heard of the mobile trend, right? Well, now we’re on Internet of Things (IoT). The fact that more and more of our everyday objects are connected to the web could feel a little bit spooky for some but it is actually incredibly useful. Everything is becoming smart. From watches to heating systems and the (once) simple bathroom scale, it’s all becoming connected.

So, how can this help your library? The easiest answer is that IoT offers a new way to deliver content to your patrons i.e. a new way to alert them of important news updates. But in reality, what it offers stretches far beyond that.

With so many devices constantly tracking and recording data, IoT brings with it a whole host of new data to analyse, assess and potentially use in your research. Smart keycards could prove that whilst the defendant was in the building at the time of the crime, they weren’t in the room. Smart watches offer a new way to track test groups’ activity levels in healthcare studies. And a smart coffee machine could have your coffee ready just in time for that 3pm slump.

Predictive Analytics

It’s no longer sufficient to simply be aware of what’s happening in your industry at present, now we need to look beyond that and consider what is likely to happen in the future. Yet, analysing previous trends in order to forecast the future is not only a mind-numbing task it’s also incredibly time consuming.

“Predictive analytics is the use of data, statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data. The goal is to go beyond knowing what has happened to providing a best assessment of what will happen in the future.”

SAS (2017)3

Thankfully, an increasing number of services now offer predictive analytics capabilities, meaning that their technology does the analysing for you. Their software trawls through historic data to assess any particular trends, and will then forecast what might happen in the coming weeks/months/years.

Predictive analytics is most commonly utilised in industries such as tourism, where hotels need to gauge how many guests to expect each night, insurance where companies can access the risk of new members based on previous day, and so forth. Though in its infancy, there is a growing use case for predictive analytics in professional services organisations - particularly when it comes to assessing market trends. Meaning that you might be the first to know of a looming demise of a client’s industry, and you stay ahead of the curve.

How current is your library? Which of these tech trends would you like to implement?

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1. Mythili Sampathkumar (2017) Girls Scouts launches new badges in robotics and cyber security, The Independent
2. Robert Ambrogi (2017) AALL: The Other Legal Tech Conference, Law Sites
3. SAS (2017) Predictive Analytics: What it is and why it matters