December is almost here, which means that the calendar year as we know it is drawing to a close. This will unleash the urgeâ€”and the annual ritual of the popular pressâ€”to write reflective articles about the year just finishing and predictive articles about 2006. The top events in politics, the arts, athletics, and other areas will be rehashed and ranked. I predict that natural disasters will receive a lot more attention and ink than they have in the retrospectives of previous years.
Rather than look back on 2005, let's look forward to 2006. To get a jump on the competition, I'm going to stick my neck out and speculate a bit about what could be major developments in library and information technology in the coming year. I have two things in mind: Both technologies have been around for awhile, but 2006 could be the breakout year for both.
- Digital Audio Books: Last Saturday, the Kansas City Star, the major newspaper for the metropolitan area in which I live, ran a front-page articleâ€”granted, it appeared below the foldâ€”about the rather mundane fact that the Kansas City Public Library has subscribed to the NetLibrary digital audio book service. The other front page stories that day were an investigation of a senseless murder; a decades-long problem with petroleum leaks at a local oil storage facility, and a story about the retail-shopping activity on the Friday after Thanksgivingâ€”another ritual of the popular news media.
I cannot think of anything about libraries and librarianship that has made the front page of the KC Star in the past few years, not even the recent budget woes at the KCPL. Granted, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is a slow news day, but still...
- Online Events Using Web-Conferencing Software: In November alone I have been party to an online event about ebooks, sponsored by Library Journal, that drew approximately 350 attendees. Then, in late November, the OPAL collaborative and the Mid Illinois Talking Book Center sponsored an online program about library services for older adults that attracted 150 online participants.
Online events appear to be catching on with librarians and library users alike. The convenience and low cost (compared to travel-to, in-person events and conference calls) certainly are part of the attraction.
When I think of all the working days I have spent traveling two or more hours to attend some three-or-four-hour, in-person meeting, workshop, or professional development event, followed by two or more hours of driving back home, it makes me wish that 1986â€”rather than the upcoming 2006â€”had been the breakout year for online events. As organizational and personal travel budgets continue to tighten, and the prices of gas, airfare, and lodging continue to trend upward, increasing use of online events makes sense.