Yesterday, this article about the Top Provocative Tech Trends came across my Google Reader. The short short version of the article would sound like this: go mobile; embrace open source, open content, and user generated content. As to the first, the timing couldn’t possibly be better for my library system as we had been chosen for a text message marketing pilot program. This program has never been done in the United States and, needless to say, we are excited to be a part of it. It appeals to my science background as I get to approach it like a giant experiment. While we are certainly hoping it will work, even any mistakes we make are tiny victories for the learning process. We are aiming to roll this out on the first week of August. (Which, oddly enough, coincides with my week of vacation.) Today, I did an interview with a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer about the program; the article will appear in tomorrow’s New Jersey section.
Not to parrot the experts on the Tech panel, but mobile is only going to get bigger and better as the technology cycles churn. Libraries are need to start the steps of moving to where our patrons are and that future is web ready phones, PDAs, and other smart phones. I remember the reporter asking me if one of the goals of the program was to get people to come into the library. My reply was something like this: while we would love to see more people in the library, we’d also love for people to be able to use the library resources no matter where they are. I think this took her slightly aback, but it’s the truth: access counts. And I certainly hope that this program is a baby step into the larger mobile forum for the system. It’s a whole new ballgame, as they say, when you can connect people to the help, service, or materials they want with the ease of a text message.
As to the last three points (since they interrelate), the malleable nature of open source and user generated content will be the fuel of future library experiences. We need the agility of these formats versus the static evolutions of vendor derived content. It’s really that simple. This is a real time information environment; and while I’m sure there is a vendor who can show me that they can do something like that, why even involve them in the first place? There will be no reason to maintain a service request chain that is patron-library-vendor when the best solution will be a locally implemented solution tailored to the problem and the library. It’s a paradigm shift that needs to happen and the sooner the better.
User generated content is where it is at, now and in the foreseeable future. The tools are so simple a child can make and share their creations (and they have). Each software cycle brings us better tools for better interactivity, stoking the collective creative furnaces of users. Just as the library community embraces collaboration across the profession, there is certainly room for our patrons to join this process. People always want more and we certainly should give it to them. As I said earlier, the tools are there. Let’s starting using them.