New Top Technologies Every Librarian Needs to Know. Ed. Kenneth J. Varnum. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman, 2019. 287 p. $64.99 softcover (ISBN 978-0-8389-1782-4).

New Top Technologies Every Librarian Needs to Know is a compilation of chapters by various authors from technical and digital public services backgrounds edited by Kenneth J. Varnum. A follow up to Top Technologies Every Librarian Needs to Know,1 also edited by Varnum, the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) has published this second volume to review the predictions from the first, and “take a gaze into 2018’s near-term future with a new set” (xi). Recognizing most libraries have embedded some technologies previously discussed in the earlier volume fully, such as text mining, digital libraries, and cloud-based systems, while others such as virtual reality (VR) are still in the nascent stages, this volume explores how some technologies have changed, as well as investigating new ones being developed and implemented now.

This compact volume covers a variety of technology topics. Organized around four broad themes, “Data,” “Services,” “Repositories and Access,” and “Interoperability,” each chapter examines the current state of a technology, explores how libraries and archives use it, and draws conclusions on the state of its future. The chapters each contain a case study on a technological implementation and examine the short and longer-term pros and cons and the effects on library services and staffing.

Part 1 examines linked open data, the Internet of Things, and web archiving for both short and long-term preservation, including an in-depth discussion of link and reference rot. Across this theme is the recognition that new bibliographic frameworks will integrate library data within non-library search engines and interfaces. However, this will lead to challenges in maintaining standardization and preservation standards, requiring the need to communicate with outside technologies and organizations to maximize the ability of librarianship to connect users to the information they need.

Part 2 examines the ways libraries are adapting and enhancing services to meet the expectations of various user groups. Chapter 5 examines the role librarianship plays in privacy protection tools, and describes how librarians both individually and collectively, such as via the Library Freedom Project, play a pivotal role in advising users and adopting and advocating for these tools. Chapters on data and information visualizations and VR illustrate how libraries can create customized interfaces across multiple formats that meet the many ways users prefer to search for and consume content.

Part 3 explores how libraries support scholarship through digital repositories, exhibits, and publishing. While digital content has become commonplace in libraries, users need to be informed about how to find and use this content and use the services offered. These digital services allow libraries, academic institutions, museums, publishers, and other organizations to work together. Nontraditional digital services support researchers not only in doing research such as providing data for text mining and other projects, but also help the researchers produce and present their work. As a result, libraries can participate actively in the scholarly output of their users.

Part 4 explores interoperability. The most technical and forward looking of the themes, these chapters go into depth about technologies such as bots, machine learning, and mobile technologies that soon will be or are already are a part of daily life. The expansion of application programming interfaces (APIs) and cloud-based services will be crucial for libraries to be both developers and participants in these technologies. For example, chapter 13 discusses how the University of Toronto Libraries uses the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIF), a set of standardized APIs, to share digital objects from their digital special collections across multiple repositories at once.

Several themes emerge in almost every chapter of the book. Most notably is a focus on technology being user driven. User expectations are currently the driving force for developing content, tools, and processes. Library professionals need to acknowledge that these expectations have become more varied as technology becomes more prevalent in daily life. Being proactive and adaptable rather than reactive is essential as users expect personalization and the ability to access content anytime and from anywhere. Collaboration is also prevalent throughout each case study. Library professionals must collaborate with each other, publishers, outside organizations, users, and other stakeholders for libraries to be relevant and successful. As more institutions adopt technologies that follow international standards and allow for interoperability, discovery and access will improve. Finally, while receiving its own separate section of the book, every chapter in some way touches on the idea of interoperability. From traditional bibliographic records now created with linked data, to digital repositories needing to be able to be integrated with other digital tools and standards, to all library technologies needing to work on mobile devices, findability of content is increasingly the focus of libraries. Without increasing interoperability in enhancing and adopting new technologies, it would not be possible for libraries to fulfill their central role of helping users find and connect to the information they need.

While not a practical guide for implementing the technologies discussed, this volume is an excellent primer on the main concepts of these newer and challenging technological developments. This volume would be useful for managers, students, and any library professional interested in technological trends. Because it is not a how-to guide, this book raises questions for library professionals who wish to explore and prepare for implementing technologies that will affect library services, planning, and resource requirements. The case studies provide practical experience, but largely the value in this volume is that it is a starting point in thinking about technological questions.—Jocelyn Lewis (jlewis21@gmu.edu), George Mason University


  1. Ed., Kenneth J. Varnum, The Top Technologies Every Librarian Needs to Know: A LITA Guide (Chicago: ALA TechSource, 2014).


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