Library Tech Trends for 2023

Image of the word "2023" superimposed over a blue and gray digital spiral.

As we head into 2023, I wanted to take some time to share a few of the library technology trends that I see taking shape.

Artificial Intelligence is Impacting Our Libraries

While some applications of AI in libraries may be bleeding edge, the technology is already making its impact felt, particularly in the areas of marketing and collections.

Transforming Library Marketing

  • AI design tools are here: AI-powered design software is affordable (sometimes free) and widely available. With a little practice, staff can now create high-quality digital art using new tools such as Midjourney and DALL-E, while even traditional design software like Canva now has an text-to-image feature! Full image creation aside, tools such as Gigapixel AI can upscale and enhance existing images. Collectively, this software can stretch limited marketing budgets, and safe significant staff time!
Photo of a poster created using an AI text-to-image tool. The poster has a robot pumpkin on the left, and a robot on the right. It reads "Okt-To-Con! Tuesday, October 11th from 6 to 9 pm. "​ Additional text on the bottom reads "Spooky stories, costumes, prizes, learning, engineering, fun!"​ The poster is laying atop a large format printer in an office.
Image credit: Chad Mairn, Innovation Lab | St. Petersburg College. Created using Midjourney.

Impact on Our Digital Collections

  • Smart speakers & virtual assistants: Smart speaker ownership continues to rise, and our patrons are increasingly turning to virtual assistants (such as Siri). As this happens, library digital collections will become more compatible with this technology, with patrons able to conduct voice searches for content, and perform core account functions (check out, place holds, renew items). Additionally, troubleshooting functionality from digital content providers (such as Overdrive), will be increasingly powered by AI/machine learning.
  • AI and audiobooks: AI audiobook narration continues to become more polished, and presents an affordable option for many publishers. While AI narration is concerning for audiobook narrators, it will allow for many more audio versions of books that would otherwise never be published–important for accessibility!

Increased “Zoomification”

The pandemic has resulted in a huge increase in the use of videoconferencing software such as Zoom. Businesses have pivoted to remote work environments, schools and higher education facilities have added distance learning to the mix, and millions of users have turned to the technology for personal use. Despite being sparked by COVID-19, this rapid adoption of this technology will continue to impact society long after the pandemic has faded away. What does this mean for libraries?

We Need to Accommodate Videoconferencing

  • Plan on building appropriate IT infrastructure: Patrons have long taken advantage of our libraries’ internet-connected devices and our public wifi. Videoconferencing can be a data-intensive activity, and library networks must be prepared to handle this increasingly commonplace online activity.
  • Supply necessary equipment: On library-provided computers/laptops, we should ensure that common videoconferencing software is preinstalled and updated regularly. Looking at hardware, library-owned devices should have webcams either built-in or as an accessory. Headphones should be available to users.
  • Supply appropriate space: While internet access is often provided in your library’s public space, a videoconference call can mean your patron is an active speaker. This can be problematic in shared/quiet space. As libraries continually reevaluate their spaces, give consideration to providing single occupancy “Zoom rooms,” or at least quiet, contained spaces with appropriate lighting, internet access, and sound-proofing. This leads me to my next point:
  • Address Telehealth: Much like business and education have been reshaped by the application of videoconferencing, so too has healthcare. Telehealth/telemedicine access is a matter of digital (and health) equity, and is an area that libraries are often well-positioned to address.

Virtual Reality and Workforce Development

Libraries have long assisted our patrons with career development; we help them prepare their resumes, provide reskilling opportunities, and offer access to career and small business resources in the form of collections, classes, and individual experts. Virtual reality offers a new and growing avenue for patrons both reentering the workforce, or entering it for the first time, as seen below.

Retraining for in-demand jobs: At the Clayton County Library System in Georgia, the library has partnered with Interplay Learning to provide free, immersive VR training for skilled trades, including plumbing, HVAC, and solar. These are in-demand, high wage jobs, meaning the library is able to take a more direct role in the economic development of its community.

Developing basic job skills: At the Employ NV Youth Hub & Teen Zone inside the West Charleston Library in Nevada, teens and young adults are given access employment and education programs. One component of this area is VR equipment set up to explore careers in healthcare, advanced manufacturing, IT, logistics, and skilled trades. This initiative has the potential to both prepare young people entering the workforce for the first time, as well as serve as a more immersive career interest experience.

Until Next Time!

Thank you for taking the time to read this spotlight on some of the technology trends I see impacting our organizations in the coming year! Before I sign off, I hope you’ll pardon these two shameless plugs:

  1. I love talking about the intersection between libraries and technology. If you’re looking for a speaker for a conference or professional development session–let’s talk!
  2. Consider adding Best Technologies for Public Libraries: Polices, Programs, and Services to your reading list. This book is a one-stop shop for libraries looking to add the most popular technologies and create best practices for their use.

One thought on “Library Tech Trends for 2023

  1. I loved this article. This is great information. It is practical and of immediate use for libraries. Interplay Learning is a game changer. This job training service through the use of virtual reality is a wonderful way to maximize the library resources, i.e., the STEM lab. How fantastic could be to use this technology in a sober manner to improve the quality of life of our community!

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