23 May 2013

LIR #irelibchat Summary: Mobile Technologies in Libraries, 21st May, 2013


Guest post by Siobhán Dunne, DCU & LIR Committee

The LIR HEAnet Group for Librarians (LIR) was delighted to join forces with #irelibchat on this month’s Twitter chat. At a seminar in November, we had seen that librarians were really animated about mobile technologies and we were keen to continue that conversation. With over two hundred tweets on the night, we weren’t disappointed - not bad for what turned out to be a gorgeous Summers evening!

We began by asking whether libraries were slow to implement new technologies thereby missing the peak of the trend. Not surprisingly, people weren’t slow to challenge this. Yet there is recognition that there is no point in being mobile just for the sake of it, it has to add value. As @Yffudj pointed out ‘it’s not about trends, it's about what's useful’. Whilst librarians are often innovators, tweeters agreed that it is more important to be useful innovators.

There was consensus that service delivery for academic ebooks has a long way to go; there are huge discrepancies in licencing models and it is confusing to users. It was noted that NUIM and UL libraries have ran successful pilots lending e book devices and as @dstokes01 attested ‘Many public libraries actively engaged with eBook lending and provide access to variety of resources remotely’.

So, are apps on the way out? Do people prefer mobile websites? When I think back to the discussions we had at the LIR/AGI symposium last November, most answered yes to both. Certainly, whilst there was some chat about vendors creating apps for databases, there was very little discussion about libraries developing their own apps. Where they are developed, apps should sing for their supper and add value to existing information channels, as @joeyanne commented: ‘Interesting to note that when University of Sheffield developed an app, they only used info available in other form’.

The challenge is to get the right balance between providing variety to our users in terms of how we package information and ensuring that we don’t privilege some users who happen to use smart phones or other devices: ‘ I'm wary of technologies that only work for some, or require user investment’ (@Yffudj )

Not surprisingly, QR codes and augmented reality featured prominently. Some felt that QR codes may have seen their day; ‘wonder if QR codes are being used with any great emphasis anywhere (anymore)? We are using them, but not to a great degree these days’ (@jclark923), however there were some suggestions as to how it could be deployed for learning ‘this QR code treasure hunt could be fun for assessing first year undergraduates: http://t.co/4q6ohtMxSp ‘(@dunnesiobhan) - and it ticks the gamification box. Augmented reality adds value by harnessing geolocation and educating users at points of need throughout the library – great potential for making orientation more interactive. Another suggestion for orientation came from @trimroy ‘Best use of mob I have seen is in #urbangames Fun. Great for hunts orientations & recreations of space’

Twitter also featured – both as a communication tool: answering information queries and as a learning tool: getting students to use it as research resource for assignments. The former could facilitate librarians in smaller libraries or ‘on the go’ or even be integrated as a roving service in a larger library.

The question of what ‘being mobile’ actually is, was raised – ‘I use my tablet to show doctors how to access resources via mob devices - great to have something to demonstrate with around the hospital! (@libfocus). However, it’s not just about mobile websites and apps, as ‘conversely people now use mobile devices in a non-mobile setting (e.g. iPad on the couch!)’ (@libfocus)

The bigger question is perhaps, how effective the deployment of mobile technologies for library services is in practice. Some suggestions for tracking mobile activity included hit counters such as Google Analytics and Stat Counter (@Yffudj). Augmented reality products such as LAYAR and AURASMA also provide usage statistics. There was a sense that catalogues are lacking when it comes to statistics – they are usually very ‘general’. Also, we need to determine how to measure qualitative content – perhaps there’s an app for that?!

All in all, this was a lively #irelibchat with plenty of food for thought and some great resource recommendations. @joeyanne suggested ‘some ideas for other ways to use mobile technologies available at http://t.co/ouSe2xp6t7 ‘ Finally, @trimroy reminded us that it’s a busy week for Irish librarians ‘am I the only one mixing #irelibcamp with #irelibchat?!’

Indeed, this #irelibchat was a great prelude to #irelibcamp which takes place this Saturday: http://laicdg.wordpress.com/tag/irelibcamp/ 
Watch this space!

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