Top 5 Tech Trends to Watch for in Libraries

Emerging technology can be overwhelming to keep up with. What tech trends will define life for generations? Which are flashes in the pan? We've highlighted five tech trends to watch for in libraries and why they matter.

1. Robots

You may have seen our Ozobots around the branch, or even a Sphero zipping around the program room, but what about robots helping behind the scenes? While the idea of friendly robots has entered pop culture, robots have also gained a lot of traction in real-world library applications. When it comes to problem solving the automation of repetitive tasks and doing sweet flips, robotic applications are a no brainer—literally!

One repetitive problem that libraries face is finding books that have been misplaced throughout the day. The Temasek Polytechnic Library’s Robbie is an example of a robotic solution in action. Robbie uses the RFID tags placed in items to highlight the ones that are missing or misplaced. It then generates a report for library staff letting them know exactly where the items are.

2. Hearables

The term “hearables” is a new one on the tech scene. Like fitness trackers and smart glasses, advances in medical technology and investment in commercial applications—think Apple AirPods—has seen in-ear technology evolve past its original function(s). It now includes features like seamless syncing with wireless devices, biometric measurements and sense-enhancement.

What’s exciting for libraries is the possibility for real-time translation. While the Babel Fish may have seemed like a distant dream the first time you read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there are already a few products emerging as leaders in this area. Pixel Buds by Google, Waverly Lab’s Pilot Earbuds and Bragi’s Dash Pro all claim two-way and almost immediate conversational translation. Because libraries commit to serving all members of our communities, I suspect that we might see hearables used to reduce language barriers.

3. VPNs and Tor Browser

EPL, and libraries in general, are committed to ensuring that our customers’ private and personal information remains secure (see our Digital Privacy page for more details). Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) offer one approach to meeting this commitment. VPNs use encryption to not only hide your IP address, but work at the operating system level to encrypt the data used on a device. Encryption scrambles data that’s sent over the internet to enhance security on a public network.

Toronto Public Library has recently installed the Tor Browser on public stations, which works similarly to VPNs. It bounces user requests through three encrypted relays before it reaches the destination website. It’s opened at the other end and then encrypted again and sent back through the same circuit, ensuring end-to-end anonymity. This goes a long way towards helping library users protect themselves against unwanted tracking, surveillance and censorship, though online security is a continuous responsibility.

4. Web Printing

Did you know that EPL offers web printing services? Web printing offers a convenient and simple solution for library members who don’t have access to a printer or computer. Being able to access services on mobile devices is crucial in bridging the digital divide: the gap between those who have access to information and communications technology and those who don’t. Head to print.epl.ca on any device to cue up your print job and release it from any library print station at any EPL location! Here’s how to get started.

5. Digital Interactive Display Walls

Libraries are active community spaces, but we’re always looking for ways to make them more engaging, vibrant and memorable. In this vein, you might have heard of the multi-storey digital interactive display wall that we're installing in the lobby of the revitalized Stanley A. Milner Library set to open on Feb. 14, 2020.

Digital interactive display walls are a new tech trend that you might have seen in public spaces like museums and malls but are new to libraries. They use multi-touch TV monitors or projectors and screens with motion or touch sensors to display information. The best part of this trend is that digital interactive display walls work to create moments of togetherness by connecting technology, physical space and community.


Interested in learning more about the complex intersection between emerging technology and society? Check out this list for some great reads!

Tech Trends in Libraries

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