As the recent post on the YALSA Blog, A Time to Reflect, noted, the end of the year is always a time to think about the past twelve months. As I tend to have technology as a focus in my life, I’ve been thinking a lot about what has happened in the technology realm in 2010. I’ve also been thinking about what I’ve seen in libraries as it relates to technology and teens. Here are some things bubbling in my head:

  • Video: Streaming video really took off this year with stories almost daily about new and improved services. NetFlix launched a streaming only subscription plan and made its instant queue available for viewing on mobile devices. Hulu Plus launched as a way for users of that service to access content on mobile devices. And, gaming consoles began to be used more and more as entertainment systems.

    Something else I’ve noticed this year is that more librarians are using video contests as a way to connect with teens. This is great as many teens are interested in producing and creating video content. However, I have one caveat for my peers. Video is not the end-all and be-all to connecting with teens. I do worry that some librarians are looking at video contests as the silver bullet for meeting teen technology needs and for integrating technology into programs and services. Please don’t. I actually think YALSA’s Why I’m a Member contest is a perfect example of how video can be used with a target audience as one way to connect. It’s not the only way, it’s one way.

  • Apps: Ever since the iPhone launched apps have been making their way into daily life. This year, with the increased number of devices that can run apps, they have become more common as a way for adults and teens to connect with content. Over the year books were released as apps – for example check out the Ansel Adams book. The YALSA Blog started reviewing apps. Articles discussing the web vs. apps appeared as did reports that those under 35 are using apps over browsers. Libraries definitely need to be a part of the apps environment in order to serve teens, and others, completely and successfully.
  • Mobile: Mobile and apps do go hand-in-hand and in 2010 several reports were published on the topic of teens and mobile. In the fall Nielsen reported data on teen mobile use and in the spring the Pew Interent and American Life Project published a report on teens and mobile phones. Connecting to teens via their devices continues to be a key focus for librarians. At ALA Annual in 2011, YALSA will sponsor a program on connecting with teens via mobile. Stay tuned for more details.
  • Ereading/ereaders: This is the year that ereaders have taken off. The launch of the iPad, lower cost and more devices, and access to more materials via ereaders all came together to make it possible for reading on a device to become one of the key topics of librarian, publisher, and teen, conversation in 2010. The New York Times reported that publishers are expecting ereaders to be received this holiday season by 100s of 1000s of people. California began a project to test iPad versions of algebra textbooks. And the idea of using ereaders as a way to have a social reading experience saw the strong light of day with the launch of Copia and Kobo and the ability to add notes to materials being read on a Kindle (or with the Kindle app) and make those notes globally available. YALSA is also going to be talking about ereading at Annual 2011 with a program on digital reading. Stay tuned for more information on that too.
  • QR codes: For me, QR codes are one of those technologies that seems to have a lot of possibilities when it comes to libraries and teen services. It’s a technology that is easy to use and in most cases free to use. In 2010 we saw libraries starting to use QR codes to connect to booklists. And some have used them in scavenger hunts. I expect that in 2011 we’ll see an even greater use of QR codes as a way to connect with teens, and adults, in the library community.

This is just a short list of what I’ve noticed over the past year related to technology, libraries, and teens. I’ve also continued to think a lot about how important it is to be flexible and nimble in the world of technology. While ereaders and ereading have taken over a decade to really take off, now that the technology is much more mainstream, libraries need to move quickly (or even better have already been moving) to connect these technologies to teens successfully.

Similarly, as librarians serving teens we can’t expect things to stay the same when it comes to technology. We have to be prepared to move speedily when we realize that something is changing. For example, last week the Twittersphere was all a-buzz with the news of the closing of Delicious. While it’s still up in the air whether or not Delicious will survive, the closure news was a good reminder to us all that we need to be ready to quickly adapt when it comes to teens and technology.

And, we have to have our eyes and ears open for what’s just around the bend, or even a little bit down the road. If librarians serving teens are ahead of the game, and not playing catch-up with technology news, tools, devices, etc., then it’s certain that we’ll be more successful serving the teen population.

I’m looking forward to what we are going to see in the area of technology in 2011. Are you? What have you noticed about teens, libraries, and technology in 2010 and what are you looking forward to? Let blog readers know in the comments.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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