Hottest technology trends at the library: The “softer” side of tech

by Ryan Huffman

When tasked with writing about the latest trends in library technology, my brain often goes to what’s going on in the general tech world. I’m sure many of us have heard about the latest in artificial intelligence, peppered with varying degrees of concern for what the future holds. While pioneers forge ahead with the latest tech trends, library technology takes a more modest approach–trying to find the best technology within reach to help the most people we can as efficiently as possible. In general, the hardware in your local branch of the library consists of devices most people are familiar with: computers, tablets, phones, and printers. But one of the areas that often gets less attention when we say “technology” is the software that makes these devices useful. If you’ve ever tried to use a computer without an operating system, you know how important software can be, so I want to focus on some of the software that helps us serve our communities.

adams county library

Possibly the most important software that we use at the library is the Integrated Library System (ILS), which might not sound familiar, but if you’ve ever searched the library’s online catalog, you’ve actually interacted with it! An ILS is the database and related software used to keep track of collection materials and user accounts, but it also includes a public-facing side for account management. Checking items out, putting items on hold, account balances, requesting inter-library loans from other systems–almost everything we do interacts with the ILS to some degree.

“But how does this fall under ‘hottest trends’ when one of the earliest examples of mechanization within libraries was in 1936 when the University of Texas started using a punch card system?” you might be asking. First of all: impressive. Second, not only have these systems changed drastically since 1936, but they continue to be updated all the time. Sometimes the change comes to a public-facing module, like the catalog; sometimes, they are made on the staff-only side. Sometimes the changes are made so deep in the software that it doesn’t look any different, it just works more efficiently. Because the ILS is an essential part of what we do, it is frequently a hot topic at the library.

Another software topic at the library that’s heating up, and one readers might be more familiar with, is Windows 11. Officially released in October 2021, Windows 11 has been creeping its way into the market. Readers who have purchased a Windows computer within the last year may have found it difficult or flat-out impossible to get one with Windows 10 pre-installed, and that’s because 10 is being phased out. The official end-of-support date for Windows 10 is set for October 14, 2025, so mark your calendars! …or I guess you don’t have to, but I certainly have. There is a lot of planning and budgeting that goes into major upgrades that make 2 years less time than one might think.

Even Freegal Music, the free music streaming & download service available to all Adams County Library cardholders, just recently had a major update that gave it a more modern look. While the Adams County staff may not be doing the programming, the Public Services Department works hard to facilitate these updates from an internal standpoint before they go live to the patrons.

So the next time you stop in to your local branch of the Adams County Library System to use a computer or search for your next favorite book in the catalog, keep an eye out for new and updated software that helps the library open gateways for exploration!

Ryan Huffman is Computer Systems Director at the Adams County Library System

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