Experimenting with mobile technologies in libraries - Jo Alcock Consulting
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Experimenting with mobile technologies in libraries

Experimenting with mobile technologies in libraries

an SMS message from the catalog

from misterbisson on Flickr

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was invited to present a session at the 2011 Colleges of Further and Higher Education (CoFHE) conference last month (Staying positive in difficult times: Maintaining quality services). My session focused on mobile technologies. I probably spend about half, if not more, of my online time on mobile devices – usually on iPhone or iPad. I use a lot of different apps for various different purposes – document creation and editing, emailing, blogging, photo management, planning travel, time management and more. But how can we utilise these technologies in libraries? Many of our users (and staff) already have mobile devices, so it’s useful to consider how we can use these to support the library service.

To prepare for the presentation, I spent a few months collecting as many examples I could of mobile technologies being used in libraries (and I am continuing to collect ideas) – from blogs, email lists, tweets, and events. I organised them into the following three areas for the presentation:

  1. Library resources (i.e. mobile access to library collections such as e-books, e-journals, and special collections)
  2. Library services (i.e. supporting or extending traditional library services, such as reference enquiries and circulation, using mobile technologies)
  3. Mobile specific purposes (i.e. new functionality offered by mobile technologies such as geolocation and QR codes)

The session was fully booked so I was given the lecture theatre for my session (which meant I also got to try my own mobile tech experiment and presented using Keynote on the iPad and Keynote Remote on the iPhone – thought I ought to practice what I preach if I’m presenting about mobile technologies!) It was a really enthusiastic group, and I got some great feedback during and after the session.

As it was a session on mobile technologies, I started and ended the session with everyone using their mobile phones to send a text message to answer questions on PollEverywhere. It worked really well – I used it at the beginning of the session to gauge audience experience with mobile technologies (15 of 20 respondents had used a mobile phone for something other than calling or texting before), and I used it at the end to find out what one thing I had talked about that they could investigate for their library. QR codes was a popular response for this (particularly for promoting use of e-books but also for videos of staff and for treasure hunts); a couple of people were hoping to investigate claiming their library on Foursquare; a couple wanted to investigate a mobile catalogue; and one wanted to investigate Cardstar.

Here’s the presentation with lots of examples of how mobile technologies could be used in libraries. Some of the examples inevitably cost money, however in keeping with the theme of staying positive in difficult times, there are a number of things you can do for free (other than the time cost of course). Warning: the presentation is image heavy, so may take a while to load. Click on the arrow icon in the bottom right hand corner if you want to view it fullscreen.

If you’re interested in finding out more about mobile technologies in libraries or would like me to come and present on this topic, please email me or join in the Twitter conversation using the #mlibs tag.

  • Ben Showers
    Posted at 15:17h, 20 July Reply

    Very interesting post, and presentation.  It’s a truism that mobile is, well let’s just say, massive!  And I think it’s very interesting that libraries both recognise the impact of mobile on their services and the delivery of content and information to their users, and are acting upon that potential with, in some cases, very innovative ideas.  
    I do think though that we still do not understand what users want with regards to both mobile access and mobile services.  Do users access content via mobile devices?  At present this doesn’t seem to really be the case (http://lorrainepaterson.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/mobile-library-survey-report/), but the impact of iPads and tablets may not have fed through yet.  I also suspect that their is a danger that we assume users want mobile access and therefore make existing services available to mobile devices.  Similar to the first wave of e-books and digitised content where it mirrors closely its analogue cousin.  Yet, this may not reflect the users desire to have services re-conceptualised and re-imagined in light of the potential mobile devices offer.  For example the devices native functionality such as camera, accelerometer, GPS etc., offer possibilities that move services far beyond what is possible in the traditional view of library services.

    There is a huge potential here, and it’s very positive that libraries both recognise and are acting upon this.  It will be interesting to see how this develops over time, and what impact new standards such as HTML5 and hybrid apps will have on the potential for libraries to meet user expectations and for institutions and libraries to enhance the experience of their students and users.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 15:28h, 20 July Reply

      Thanks for your comment Ben 🙂

      I agree there is a danger of jumping on the mobile bandwagon with too much
      enthusiasm when we don’t really know what users want or how the mobile
      market is likely to pan out (particularly if it involves a financial
      investment!). This is particularly true when it comes to mobile content, and
      I totally agree with you that converting existing resources to access them
      via mobile is probably not the best way to go about this.

      The new and future technologies offer so much potential for revolutionising
      the way we do things (in ways we can’t event currently conceptualise!), and
      I’m definitely looking forward to watching the developments unfold.

  • Rachelpreece1
    Posted at 15:22h, 26 July Reply

    I was very amused with one student last year when he decided that, instead of getting up and walking the few metres to the computer booking system to log himself back on, it was better to get out his iPhone, go to the online URL for the system and re-book himself back on from the comfort of his chair!

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 15:33h, 26 July Reply

      I have done things like that before – some might call it lazy, I like to think of it as being experimental with technology. Subtle difference 😉

  • Joeyanne Libraryanne » Handheld Librarian Online Conference V
    Posted at 23:47h, 14 September Reply

    […] there’s a lot of experimentation going on. They were also the thing most librarians at my CoFHE conference session on ‘Experimenting with mobile technologies’ wanted to investigate further. Some useful advice from the sessions at Handheld Librarian including […]

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