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Which way forward?

Does your organization do 5 or 10 year plans? What about 15-year plans? I sat in a meeting recently with someone who was asking for this kind of forward thinking: what will the world look like in 2025? Now that was a bracing question!

Last week, the British Library published an articulate and impressive 10-year strategy, their 2020 Vision. They tie the ideas to their organizational mission and vision, and they make 6 forecasts. I’m quoting from the document:

  • The consumption of media by young people will continue to increase across the full range of media channels, day and night, seven days a week.
  • Free, ‘open access’ scholarly works will enable improved access and will drive research increasingly towards open access models.
  • Mobile devices will soon overtake personal computers as the most common web access tools worldwide.
  • Users will increasingly demand searches that identify sources of quality information and expect prompts for new information based on previous patterns of activity–giving new context to content.
  • Technology will encourage and enable discourse in a more diverse, open and participative way.

Are these outrageous claims? I don’t think so. And I assume that they are based on the consultative interviews and research described by Dame Lynne Brindley in her Foreword to the document. Interviews and research are a good way to determine the lay of the land, and even to look ahead a little bit.

Recently, CDL released the findings from a summer-long look into “All Things Mobile.” Here are just a few of the things that we found out:

  • Slightly more academic survey respondents own mobile phones without internet (61%) than mobile devices that with internet (53%). Faculty were the most likely respondents (63%) to own a mobile device with internet, followed by graduate students (53%) and then undergraduates (41%).
  • Most told us that they prefer to use internet from their laptops rather than their mobile devices, yet many don’t carry laptops to campus or have internet access at home.
  • Most noted that they did not want to do actual academic research on mobile devices. Many see research as a difficult activity that would only be more difficult on a mobile device.
  • Most of our participants prefer notifications by email instead of text message.

One of the recommendations from the study was to keep on top of this topic by revisiting it every six to twelve months, because it is subject to so much change. Interviews and research have to be done over and over, in other words, and some of it has to be done locally.  Some of these trends are simply not universal.

Here, I think of Char Booth‘s call for local studies: “understanding local patron culture is essential to creating used and useful (technology) services. Environmental scanning is a scalable means of using data to test your notions of true/false.” Sometimes, we can apply the comparable studies others have done, and sometimes we need to do our own. In the case of mobile, it looks like we need to do our own.