Emerging Technology Questions

These questions came from a survey of library directors and technologists on how they evaluate technology for use in the library.

Questions about the Information Source

Has something changed in what you’re hearing? You’ve been ‘hearing about it forever,’ but suddenly it’s everywhere or in non-tech, mainstream places.

Are diverse sources mentioning it? Mainstream + tech + word of mouth + Buzzfeed?

Do people you respect & trust recommend a particular news source? What do your go-to people follow?


Basic Questions About the Technology

What does it do?

What makes it unique?

Is it is the best tool? Are there better choices?

Is it user-friendly?

Easy to install/update?

Is it legal?

Is buying it a one-time or recurring cost?

How reliable is it?

What are the hard costs? the soft costs?

Is it replaceable?

What is the cost of maintenance?


Questions About Implementation

How could it be used in a public setting?

Is it being used by other libraries? If so, how have they implemented it?

How does it benefit your patrons? Staff? Community?

Are there obvious downsides/challenges?

Can/would you circulate it? How?

What’s the impact on staff work load? Who will maintain it? Circulate it? Track it?

Do you need a new or updated policy or procedure for it?

How do you buy it?

Who pays for it if it breaks or is lost or stolen?

Do you need to start with a pilot or can you integrate it to established programs/procedures out of the box?

Does it work with existing systems? If not, is there a domino effect that might cost you more than it’s worth? Flip side: could you use this to spark upgrades to existing systems?

Will it replace existing technology at a better price?

If you invest in this technology, what are you not investing in? To say yes to this, what do you have to say no to?


Questions About Needs

Does it fill an unmet gap in the community?

Does it improve efficiency or productivity for your staff or the community?

Is it accessible to people outside the library walls?

What does the local economic picture look like? Can the public use this tech as a try-before-you-buy opportunity?

Will it reduce the digital divide?


Questions About Uses & Users

Can you immediately think of a library use for it?
That would work in your library? That you wish would work in your library (but of course it never would).

Who might this technology appeal to or apply to?

How many people will actually use it?

Has the community asked about it? Are they using it at home/work and want it here, too? Do they need/want support for it?

Can you get feedback from patrons or usage stats from libraries that already have it?


Look at the 30,000-Ft View

What are the risks of trying this technology?

What are the potential benefits? What’s the ROI, especially for staff tech?

Does it support your library’s strategic goals? your municipality/county/institution’s goals?

What other technologies or services will it enable? (e.g., more bandwidth opens the door to conducting live webinars, downloading media, etc.)

How do you create/sustain staff buy-in for it?

How do you measure ROI/success of having it?


Look at the Long View

You know what it can do. What could it possibly do? What does the company say is coming next?

Will it even work in 5+ years? Will it be relevant?

Does it serve your library in a way that won’t change, no matter what else shows up?

What happens when support for this disappears or it’s completely redesigned? Can you plan for lack of backwards-compatibility?

How do you plan for the technological unknown? Can this technology help you try out possibilities?

Does your staff need shaking up? Might playing with fun tech now help them embrace change later?

Do your younger/savvier staff need opportunities for success? How can this tech enable their potential?

Are you building or renovating a location? As part of your planning, do a future technology sweep as well as a current needs evaluation.