Library Technology, 2017 Year in Review

Person looking at a calendar through a magnifying glass

For better or worse, 2017 was definitely a year to remember. This past year gave us new political realities and the need for libraries to repair budgets and memory holes. It also gave us a promise of simpler e-book lending, widespread Wi-Fi hotspot lending, and maker programs. We think public libraries met the challenges of this past year admirably. Here is a glance back at 2017 through the lens of library technology.

How Librarians and the Internet Archive Rescued Critical U.S. Government Scientific Information

Even before the new administration took office in January, it was clear that critical U.S. government information online, especially climate change data, was marked for extinction. The Saturday before inauguration day, 60 hackers, scientists, archivists, and librarians got together at the Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania to undertake a massive rescue mission to scrape endangered scientific knowledge and upload it to DataRefuge.org. By mid-year, 200 TB of data had been rescued and posted on the Internet Archive (sometimes called the digital library of Alexandria), thus repairing the largest Orwellian memory hole in modern history. Somebody should make a movie of this.

Maker Programs Are Now in Most U.S. Public Libraries

It's official. Maker programs in libraries arrived in 2017. According to the comprehensive Library Journal report, Maker Programs in Public Libraries (PDF), the vast majority of U.S. public libraries, 89 percent, to be exact, now offer maker programs to their patrons. They're offering them to every kind of patron, but especially to children and teens.

The Digital Public Library of America Devises a New Way to Lend E-books

At last someone has come up with an alternative to the complex way that libraries now lend e-books. The Digital Public Library of America has started a pilot for a library-owned and library-centered e-book marketplace for free public-domain and openly licensed e-books. The new program will be administered through a partnership with the nonprofit LYRASIS, which will provide the hosting.

Oculus Virtual Reality Technology in over 90 California Libraries

Through a partnership announced in June between the California State Library, The Facebook company Oculus, and nonprofit library consortium Califa, virtual reality (VR) stations started rolling out to more than 90 libraries throughout California. The stations consist of VR-ready PCs equipped with Oculus Rift headsets and touch controllers. They offer many patrons their first experience with new technology.

How We Saved the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

In April, TechSoup for Libraries published an urgent plea to save the IMLS. Thanks to a successful online campaign that lasted through the summer of this year, funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) was in fact saved. In September, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an actual increase of $4 million in funding for IMLS. According to a key Senate staffer, ALA's ongoing grassroots campaign to save direct library funding played a major role in the gains for IMLS.

Hemet Public Library's New 24/7 Library Kiosk

The Georgia-based software company EnvisionWare has developed self-service library kiosks. Small libraries with limited hours and staffing can use the kiosks to offer services at any time during the night or day. Hemet Public Library now has a 24-hour library kiosk that offers access to almost 350 books and DVDs to any patron with a library card.

Wi-Fi Hotspot Lending Gains Serious Momentum

We have been championing Wi-Fi hotspot lending for a good long while at TechSoup. I for one was astonished to learn that we have now distributed over 22,000 Mobile Beacon Hotspots to date, of course mostly to public libraries. When I saw Library Journal's recent piece, How to Hot Spot, it came clear to me that the trend for libraries to lend home broadband has gained serious momentum nationwide. Over 30 percent of Americans still don't have broadband at home, which puts schoolchildren and job seekers at a clear disadvantage. The digital divide persists, and public libraries are addressing it. Check out our recent TechSoup for Libraries piece on how the Oakland Public Library is developing their Wi-Fi hot spot lending program.

Do you have some library technology news from this past year you'd like to add? Please comment below.

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