Right off the top I have to say that Google Glass puts me off. A a potential user of the technology I’d want to use it everywhere, of course–it would be super convenient. As a bystander I would be concerned about privacy. I can easily see this technology possibly banned from certain public places like banks… and possibly libraries. Wouldn’t patrons want assurances of privacy while they’re working in a library? I think they would.
That said, it is clear that mobile and geo-social aspects of connectivity are the future for libraries and for society. A Nielsen survey I quoted earlier in the semester shows dramatic growth with respect to smartphones in our population, and there’s no turning back. Mobile platforms offer many features that aren’t available on desktops and people have noticed. Librarians have noticed, too–there are unprecedented apps for the popular mobile platforms which bring library offerings to members. Over the past week I’ve been looking at an app for iOS called Browzine that presents journal articles in a browsable format collected by journal, volume and issue. This doesn’t, by itself, sound radical but since most researchers find articles through databases this technology restores browsability to the scholarly reading experience. Journals kept on your shelf will be populated with the latest issues which you can read on demand.
Like the Google Glass privacy issue I described earlier, geolocatability also presents privacy and safety issues. Sometimes it’s not as easy as turning off those features on your mobile device: your mobile phone company always has an idea where you are because your mobile phone’s signal is associated with a specific tower which connects your phone to the cellular network. Even if you turn off geolocation some services still know where you are. My carrier, AT&T, has a service which sends customers texts for selected deals from merchants in the area where your phone is connected to the network. Last week while in a taxi crossing from one neighborhood into another I received a text from AT&T offering me a deal on a restaurant in the neighborhood I was travelling into. My phone had associated with a tower in the destination so they knew to send me the offer.
While only AT&T had the information about my location to send me the offer, that changes the minute I want to take advantage of the offer. If I do take the offer then the merchant (potentially) also knows where I was during a specific time.
Can geolocation services help libraries bring improved services to their members? Probably … but the privacy and security issues almost certainly mean that the best way to approach this with specific opt-in from members. Libraries have, historically, been been champions of member’s privacy and these new technologies present new challenges which must be addressed before rolling out services based on the new technologies.