Dusting Off My Crystal Ball
It’s that time again… every three years the library must submit a Technology Plan to the Library of Michigan. In this document, we predict our technology needs and expenditures for the upcoming three years. While I can see the wisdom in committing our broad goals and objectives to paper, the changing nature of technology makes it almost impossible to accurately pinpoint dollar figures or devices for projects so far into the future. Thus, I haul out my crystal ball and do lots of guesstimates. Here are some of my best guesses so far:
1. We’ll most certainly need a new phone system within three years. Ours is six years old and some of our handheld VOIP phones have taken a beating. But what will be available in the next year or so? Will we have some sort of iPhone or Droid so that we can accept text messaging for reference, or have an app for IM on the run? This area of our service isn’t yet developed, but I can see a huge potential as the number of smart phones flood the market.
2. Along that same theme of mobile device users, I have to believe that our bandwidth will surely need to be increased. In the past decade, we’ve gone from a T1 line to a T3 line to adapt to the additional public Internet computers purchased for the Library. Recently, we switched over to fiber optic when wi-fi usage increased. We’ve already had several days where 100% of our bandwidth has been utilized, so this trend will only get worse, especially if we mount videocasts and podcasts on our web site. (If we use a third-party server for storage, we’ll have to factor in that lease price into our budget as well.)
3. Now for the hardest part – computer hardware and software! Hmmm…. certainly we’ll have to move to WIndows 7 and a newer version of MS Office within three years. That goes without saying, hopefully. But we should also replace servers and routers and other back room hardware as well. This is the domain of our network manager and I’ll need to pick his brain on this stuff.
Doing a multi-year Technology Plan is a challenge, but also a great time to dream of how our patrons might be better served by delivering reference services in new ways or giving customized reader’s advisory based on patrons’ literary tastes. As part of the Plan, I must also describe how we’ll promote and explain these new services to patrons. I have a feeling my crystal ball will be heavily used in the next few weeks as I predict our technology path for the upcoming three years.