Children and TechnologyThe last few weeks have seen bunches of bloggers and magazine and newspaper columnists making predictions for the year ahead. I just found, thanks to LISNews, this list of SirsiDynix VP of Innovation Stephen Abram’s “30 Library Technology Predictions for 2008.” Now, these aren’t really library tech predictions – they’re general educated guesses about what we might expect to see happening in the world of technology that might affect what happens in libraries.

But they’re certainly worth taking a look at. I’m going to pick a few of them that are most likely to affect what we do with young people. Here’s my first one, even though it’s only #22 on Abram’s list:

22. 2008 will be the beginning of the end for DVD (Blu Ray is a distraction) as streaming media is adopted by Hollywood and the (dying) major networks on a much larger scale – dwarfing YouTube as it exists today. New licensing models will emerge for libraries in ’08.

This is not a tough prediction to make (Abram also predicts the end of the line for Blockbuster). We still don’t know exactly when it will happen, but DVDs (I mean the disks themselves, and I include high-definition disks) soon will be fading away as VHS tapes are now. And actually, I’m not unhappy about that. If you circulate DVDs to families with young children, you’ve noticed how quickly they come back after only a few circs scratched up badly, looking as if someone was tossing them to their dog or trying to play them with a nail. Streaming video movies – if we can get licensing issues worked out, and most media companies change their negative opinion of libraries loaning out their digital product for free – will never scratch.

27. Better identification and classification of user-generated content will give usage of that a bump in 2008. Can libraries play in that space locally?

I keep wondering whether one day soon, public libraries might be able to move into the niche of providing local history and culture. Nobody makes video recordings of, say, local storytellers, folk musicians, festivals, etc., or creates programs documenting local history, on any kind of consistent basis. I’ve felt for a long time that more public libraries should work with local history societies, ethnic and cultural groups, and colleges to get more of its community recorded and archived, and then – most important – being made accessible on the library’s servers to the world through the Internet.

12. The Google Docs suite will make real inroads into the enterprise space. It will be very hot in high school and college/academic spaces too. Like all popular useful tools many institutional IT managers will attempt to block them.

Have you tried the Google Docs programs? They’re not perfect, but they’re a really interesting way for students (and everyone else) to have important documents available wherever you are. The growth of these server-based programs is one of the steps we’re taking toward the end of the PC and toward the Net-capable cell phone (or cell phone-like device) that I believe will be the way that just about everyone – kids, teens, and students, especially – uses the Internet within the next few years.

1. There will be some Internet speed and congestion issues in 2008 on a scale that hit AOL in the early days. There will be hand-wringing blog posts and I-told-you-so stories in the MSM [mainstream media].

I have noticed (have you? I’m curious) that there seem to be more days and periods of time in which the “high-speed” Net appears to choke and slow down. I’ve heard various explanations – viruses, more spam, and the growth of streaming video services among them. The next year or two could be interesting on this front, especially when streaming video movies replace DVDs for more and more folks.

Take a look at Abram’s list and tell me – do you see other things there that are going to affect how young people use technology?