I took the long road back from ALA Annual held a few weeks back (ie, vacation), and in that time there’s been a few interesting developments.

This year’s Top Tech Trends featured a dizzying array of trends and technologies, as well as technologies in the room that didn’t always work quite as they should. Despite the glitches, it was an interesting experience to participate in the Meebo room and ask questions of the panel and other attendees there, and update to Twitter all while trying to listen to the panel and digest their trends. Some of the trends that I was glad to see noted included:

The biggest trend - mobiles

Mobiles, in particular, are going to reach a critical mass very quickly as data plans become more generous and more people upgrade to smartphones (let alone the hysteria over the new iPhone). They are also becoming the primary way of accessing the Internet in countries where access to computers and broadband is difficult, such as Latin America and Africa.

It is not particularly difficult to get at least your website to function in a mobile-based browser, and this should be the first step for libraries. The next stage is to improve access to catalogue data, by providing mobile-friendly OPACs or GPS type location ability to find books on the shelf.

Libraries also need to be thinking about applications for mobiles. Peter Brantley posts about the absence of library applications from the iPhone when it was launched last week, and says that surely we could do better -

“Was there some mysterious barrier that prevented libraries, and publishers, from grokking that their content might be desirable to have on a hip phone? That reading can be portable? That the sooner they figure out how to facilitate the integration of their content into the media flow of the user, the better off they will be?”

The iPhone SDK is readily available from Apple’s Developer Connection (the SDK is free but the Developer program starts at $99). So, what kinds of applications might we see on the iPhone? eBook readers? Federated search engines to access databases in a more phone-suitable interface? GPS-enabled catalogue searching? Although the iPhone is dominating the news at the moment, development should equally be taking place for Symbian, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile powered devices, as well as services for non-smartphone capable phones, like notifications by humble SMS.

Read more about getting started with mobile services for libraries on my earlier post, the importance of the mobile web. You may also be interested in picking up Ellyssa Kroski’s new Library Technology Report on the mobile web -

“In the report, author and library-technology blogger Ellyssa Kroski outlines the components of the mobile Web — the users, devices, the operating systems, the services, the content — and illuminates the research tracking how users currently engage with information on the World Wide Web via their mobile devices. Kroski also delineates several library mobile initiatives and provides a “how to” chapter for libraries interested in developing a mobile experience for their users.”

She has also put together an update on the iPhone 3G, released after the report was published.

Conferences on Semantic Web and libraries

There is a small, but growing, number of conferences which include the semantic web as a theme. If you are thinking of doing some travelling, a pre-conference to the IFLA Congress to be held in Milan 2009 will feature the semantic web and search technology. “Emerging trends in technology: libraries between Web 2.0, semantic web and search technology” [PDF, page 6] will be held in Florence in August 2009 -

“In this two-day conference we would like to address the synergies and potential use of all these three different aspects, the new web technologies, the semantic web and the existence new search technologies, which are having a deep impact in the services of the library-scene.”

Originally published on the semanticlibrary.net blog