What are “emerging technologies” in libraries? I’ve seen the phrase used with increased frequency in the library science profession, including many positions established in academic libraries for an Emerging Technologies Librarian. Yet, many of these job descriptions don’t define what emerging technologies are, and perhaps that is the challenge for librarians who take on these roles–to discover new hardware, software apps and other tools that are cutting edge and add value to patrons’ experience. LITA (the Library and Information Technology Association) presented a panel on emerging technologies at ALA 2010. I didn’t attend but lived vicariously through the follow-up blog post recapping the discussion. I agree with the panel that what’s “emerging” for one patron might be old news for another–while my mother is still trying to get the hang of Facebook, I look forward to flying in a transparent spa plane (though I don’t look forward to being 70 when Airbus puts these planes in the air in 2050). Nevertheless, I don’t think libraries need to dumb down technology for their patrons. Just as libraries have always done with books, we should be exposing patrons to new worlds, research, thoughts, ideas–and improving digital and technological literacy at the same time.
A LITA panelist named 3d TV when asked to give an example of an emerging technology. It’s true 3d TVs are relatively new. I was mesmerized the last time I went to Best Buy and saw them on display. But, I have a hard time justifying the expense for a library to purchase a $1,500+ 3d TV just to say, “We have a 3D TV. Isn’t it cool?” Platforms and devices that can be utilized in education are more appealing.
Wii U, a Nintendo console to be released in 2012, has a dynamic new touch screen controller that can be used on its own or in conjunction with a TV. Watching the concept video, posted above, along with the reflex must have one I imagine a lot of potential uses for Wii U in meeting rooms and in the classroom. With the stylus, it can be used as a drawing tablet. It has a front facing camera for video calls. While there are similar tablets that can be used for the same purposes (such as iPad) the ability to interact with a larger screen is what makes the Wii U unique. Presenters and students can share an Internet browser between the controller and a big screen. In a research instruction session, a librarian could pass around the controller and ask students to participate in database searching on the big screen. The sharing feature is another way to collaborate in meetings. A participant could, for example, pull up an image on the controller and using the gesture recognition, literally fling the picture onto the big screen from his/her seat.
Not to mention, when you play golf, you can set the controller on the floor and see your golf ball, making the game so real you officially will no longer have to spoil your walks. How awesome is that?