Horizon Report: 2015 Library Edition

After the success of the first edition of the NMC Horizon Report Library Edition in 2014, the New Media Consortium (NMC) has published a new edition of the report.

The Horizon Report: 2015 Library Edition investigates interdependencies between academic and research libraries and trends in the educational sector. It also looks at how libraries can use and support social and technological developments.

Results and trends

Below you find a summary of the report’s main topics – a summary that we hope will make you want to read it in greater depth.

The brand-new edition identifies the following trends that will have an impact on academic and research libraries:

Time horizon of 1 year

  • easier access to research content
  • redesigned library rooms

Time horizon of 2 to 3 years

  • continuing development of forms of academic communication and publication
  • greater focus on management of research data

Time horizon of 4 to 5 years

  • increasing importance of the user experience
  • prioritization of mobile delivery of information

The report also takes account of the most important technologies for libraries:

  • Time horizon of 1 year: makerspaces and online learning
  • Time horizon of 2 to 3 years: visualization of information and semantic web
  • Time horizon of 4 to 5 years: location intelligence solutions and machine learning


And a trend report would not be complete without addressing challenges:

Solvable challenges

  • integration of libraries into university curricula
  • imparting of digital skills

Challenges that are difficult to solve

  • competition as a result of alternative offerings of information
  • new functions and roles for librarians

Complex challenges whose solutions are not yet known

  • the need for radical change due to technological and societal upheavals
  • dealing with the constant devaluation of knowledge and the information explosion

The Library Report is just one of the annual NMC reports covering important developments, new technologies, challenges, and trends in the educational sector. The other reports are also worth reading.

Innovation Radar or Lowest Common Denominator?

Over the years the NMC has developed a tried and tested procedure for compiling reports. At its core is what is known as the Delphi method, which involves questioning numerous experts on specific topics. Questioning is supported by a comprehensive wiki that integrates workflows and opportunities for coordination. With this year’s Library Edition, 53 experts from 15 countries and four continents cooperated under the guidance of the Co-Principal Investigators (Lambert Heller – TIB Hannover, Rudolf Mumenthaler – HTW Chur, Andreas Kirstein and Franziska Regner – ETH-Bibliothek Zurich).

In methodological terms, in our view the question is whether the NMC Horizon Report can be genuine innovation radar or is instead the lowest common denominator in already existing innovation projects and routine tasks in academic libraries.

Part of the genuine added value of the methodology of the NMC Horizon Report is that, thanks to highly professional moderation by NMC, numerous experts from different countries and continents are placed in an open dialogue and input situation within the shortest time. There are very few other frameworks within which so much expertise from the wide context of information infrastructure facilities is brought together on a voluntary and constructive basis and across frontiers in such a concentrated and condensed manner. Despite the predefined steps, there is maximum freedom in the presentation and selection of topics for providing input. The openly accessible wiki means that there is also transparency regarding the topics discussed in depth but not ultimately included in the report. Nor should the marketing value of this prestigious report be underestimated in its external impact as regards the image of libraries in universities, politics, and society.

The trends, challenges, and technological developments brought together in this year’s NMC Horizon Report Library Edition are fundamentally unsurprising – and this is doubtless an effect of the lowest common denominator between the various institutions, countries, and continents. Makerspaces and Semantic Web? We know these trends well enough. But another picture emerges when the evaluations are considered in detail, particularly the project examples and reading recommendations. This is where you will sometimes find truly inspiring flagship projects that send a strong signal on both a practical level and a political and management level and create premises for future decisions.

An example of predicted long-term developments in the report’s evaluation of future-oriented technologies is the significance for libraries of the technological trend toward machine learning. This could equally be in the context of text or data mining, big data methods used in the academic world, or alternative solutions for classic cataloging in academic and research libraries.


Figure: Horizon Report: 2015 Library Edition

Future Library

Andreas Kirstein, Deputy Director and Head of Media and IT Services at ETH-Bibliothek, is quoted as follows in the NMC’s press release on the publication of the report: “Do we still need libraries? Wrong question! The second release of the NMC Horizon Report > Library Edition brings us many examples of the lively adoption of new technologies in many libraries around the globe. These forward-looking approaches are the answer to the better question: What kind of libraries do we need in the future?”

The quotation can be supplemented by the question: “What role do libraries occupy in society in both social and technological terms?” While the NMC Horizon Report does not provide any surprising and revolutionary answers, each reader will after reading nonetheless undoubtedly have an altered image and prospect of the exciting courses for action available to libraries. The NMC Horizon Report Library Edition thus represents a building block in the positioning of libraries at universities and in other societal segments.

Andreas Kirstein, Deputy Director and Head of  Meda and IT Services
Dr. Franziska Regner, Head of Innovation and Development

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public License.

DOI Link: 10.16911/ethz-ib-1962-en

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