What Does This Mean to Me, Laura?

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What Does This Mean to Me, Laura?

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Keeping Up

Libraries: let’s be honest about “emerging technology”

22nd August 2019

I do a good number of presentations and webinars, both for my day job and for other library-related organizations. Some of those might come under the broad heading of “emerging technology.”

A couple of years ago, I was asked to do a series of this type of workshop for an out-of-state consortium. When the evaluations came back to me a few weeks afterwards, I got very good marks as a presenter, but some comments threw me for a loop. A common complaint was that the technology topics I covered were not being used in libraries. I was stunned.

Can we be honest for a moment, folks?

If a technology is already in use in libraries, it is almost certainly NOT emerging. Yes, I said it. And, there shouldn’t be any shame in this! I’m not saying that libraries are collectively behind some kind of curve. What I am saying is that libraries can’t afford to be on the bleeding edge of new tech. We don’t have dedicated research and development budgets or staff. By the time newer tech makes its way through our doors, it’s been available to consumers for some time. The technology might be new to us, but it’s not new in many other industries.

Augmented/virtual/mixed reality is a good example of this. Both AR and VR are well-established for home markets, even if they’re not as common as the kitchen sink…yet. It could be argued that mixed reality is still emerging, since there are few examples available on the consumer front, and not even that many on the commercial or industrial fronts. However, and this distinction is important: AR and VR are NOT emerging technologies. What they could be called are evolving technologies. There’s actually a whole lot going on in those development spaces right now, but the tech itself is not new. They’re not emerging…they’re changing and potentially gaining new audiences or capabilities.

It might seem like just a semantic argument, but it seems like it’s a misunderstanding on our part that I’d like to see fail to perpetuate. There’s no disgrace in talking about the new routes that existing technologies have taken. Let’s stop calling them what they’re not.


  • Regina Burgess
    Posted at 2:57 pm September 4, 2019
    Regina Burgess

    This is great! We get a lot of requests for training on “emerging technologies,” but I agree that “evolving technologies” is a much better topic. Thanks!

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