technologyOften, I wonder what it will be like to walk into a library 20 years from now. I’m not talking about whether there will be books there; I feel strongly that there will. I also believe that there’ll be children’s storytimes and other programming. Librarians of 2027 will still be singing “Six Little Ducks” and “I’m a Little Teapot.”

I’m thinking about the library technology of the future. I just read a Washington Post article about the shrinking of laptops. The author, James Martin, says:

Where, exactly, is the sweet spot between ultra portability and mega functionality? In recent months, several hardware developers have been pondering this question, blurting out “Eureka!,” and creating a product that’s an ultra ultraportable computer, a smart phone that thinks it’s a laptop.

Back in the 90s when cell phones became a massively accepted technology, I had an epiphany. (No biggie; I know plenty of others have had this epiphany, too.) “Computers – desktops and laptops – are a temporary technology. Soon they’ll go away and we won’t have to haul them around or have half of our desks covered with them.”

I realized that the cell phone, in one form or another, would become the wireless “smart phone,” as I often hear it called. It’d be our new general tech device, replacing the PC and the iPod. Soon we’d all carry our Internet-capable smart phones around with us, as the costs came down and they became accessible to more and more people. Which means that more and more children will have them in their pockets and backpacks.

Yeah, I know it hasn’t happened yet, but just watch. It’ll be a major deal for libraries. I believe we’ll continue to read 3D books for pleasure (as I’ve said before, e-books have never convinced me they’re a viable technology, especially with the unpleasant digital-rights management software they’re filled with), but downloadable music, audiobooks, and video will become bigger and bigger items in library budgets and library circulation.

The reference book will completely disappear, and everyone will access the facts they need on their smart phones, whether from Mapquest or library databases. That will be a strange day – when PCs become buggy whips.

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