Tech Bee

Technologies Gone By . . . Not Really

It has been over five years since I took a retrospective look at the technologies covered in the TechBuzz so I thought it was a good time to see what has stood the test of time and what has disappeared or been replaced by something different. To my surprise more has stayed with us than I would have anticipated given the ever changing landscape of technology.

The USB drive. In 2007 Debbie Ginsberg shared a piece on the USB drive, jump drive, thumb drive, insert-your-favorite-name-here drive and how its use changed our lives. The little device replaced all those  5 ½ and  3 ¼ inch disks and put them in a handy, single, portable location. While the floppy disks are mostly gone (I still have a box of these disks in storage), the jump drive is still going strong. There is a lot of movement to cloud storage but that has not replaced the jump drive for portability of more sensitive items and as a back-up. A quick search of the internet will reveal a number of articles on security issues with cloud storage. Additionally, while the CD may not be in favor for music anymore, anecdotally I have been told by a few IT professionals that it is still a stable storage system in favor in many areas for long term maintenance of materials.

Faceted searching in library catalogs. The spring 2008 CALL Bulletin brought us a column by Patricia Sayre-McCoy discussing a “‘new’ type of catalog for searching.” This “new” searching is the faceted search. Faceted searching is still very much a part of our lives in many ways, not just the library catalog. While still not able to discern the nuances between meanings of certain terms (e.g., security – the financial document as opposed to a safety issue), faceted searching does provide additional avenues for researchers in locating otherwise undiscovered material.

Social networking. Hmmmm…… I was not sure if this existed anymore, but my colleagues on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., assure me it is still a significant part of our world. What has gone by the wayside are Law Libraries and Librarians on Ning.  It was the start of a communication shift but did not stand the test of time. Other social media formats have become prevalent, as a perusal of any law library website will show. Additionally, the AALL Communities area has provided a means for focused topical conversations among law librarians.

Another topic addressed near its infancy that has stood the test of time is the e-reader and the e-book. We have seen shifts in types of devices and formats of delivery, but overall both are still going strong. The Kindle is still widely marketed, but tablets of all shapes and sizes are used now as e-readers. Public libraries have significantly expanded their e-book offerings and legal publishers have entered the market. LexisNexis Digital has brought a number of titles to law library users in the e-book rather than a database format. E-books, while still not the same as paper, at least bring some of the functionality of a print book back into use while adding a few nice features such as source linking, dictionary linking, and searching features that exist in databases but do not maintain the book experience. Interestingly, according to Library Journal’s Ebook Usage in Academic Libraries 2016, a survey of over 340 academic libraries revealed a leveling off of e-book demand since 2012. Ebook Usage in Academic Libraries, 2016 at 8. Reference titles were sought out in electronic format more frequently than other resources and textbooks were still heavily preferred in print. Id. at 8.

The QR Code still exists, but it is not seen and discussed as frequently with respect to libraries as it had been several years ago. A few examples of interesting uses of QR codes in libraries exists but overall the use has been minimal. Marshall Breeding, Library Technology Forecast for 2015 and Beyond, Computers in Libr., Dec. 2014, at 22.

While somewhat surprised that most of these items have stood the test of time, it is comforting to know that not everything has to change constantly. Also apparent is the fact that librarians are often able to identify the technologies that will benefit our work and our institutions and that will have long term use. I hope in five or so years that if I look back at what TechBuzz has covered in the interim that we will see a similar identification of bellwether technologies identified by and implemented by the library communities.