It was the annual University of Lincoln Library staff away day on Tuesday. I performed my turn: a 20-minute presentation on QR codes in academic libraries: the culmination of our (JB, PC, CL, MN, PS, EV) little internal mini-project. (There were two other mini research projects which reported on Tuesday: one group looked at improving the student experience; the other at the best ways of promoting new library resources.)
Then we broke off into groups to consider various questions arising out of the work of the project groups. My question was this:
How could we support and encourage the use of mobile devices in the Library?
We talked around this for a while: should we be supporting their use? (We certainly support and encourage the use of desktop PCs as tools for accessing library resources and services: so why not mobiles? Part of the problem, I think, is that we’ve not reconciled our historic library-y attitude to mobile phones with the possibilities of mobile computing. Whatever: we need to come to terms with them once and for all, decide on a position, and stick to it!)
Even given that we should be prepared to support mobile devices: do we need to encourage people to use them in the Library? (People seem to be adopting smartphones perfectly readily without the need for encouragement from libraries…) Perhaps what we need to encourage is not the use of mobile devices per se, but for students and academic staff to re-consider the use of them as valid devices for learning.
We also need to remember that ‘mobile devices’ ≠ just phones, but also mp3 players, tablets (e.g. iPads), e-book readers, netbooks, etc. etc.
After a while, we narrowed it down to six recommendations for the Library: three things we could do now, with no additional money, to support the use of mobile devices – three further things that we can plan to do in the future, which would require a bit of funding.
Do now with no extra money:
- Add QR codes to print journal box labels, to link our print holdings to the corresponding e-journal record (c.f. this photo);
- ‘Soft launch’ the mobile version of RefWorks (RefMobile) to our users;
- Ask colleagues within the Library who are already smartphone enthusiasts (they know who they are!) to demonstrate their toys to the rest of us.
Do in the future with a bit of funding:
- Run a marketing campaign to encourage people to re-consider their mobile phone as a useful academic tool (“the classroom in your pocket“?);
- Systems development – make sure as many of our systems as possible have a valid mobile user interface, and target development at those systems which are lagging behind;
- Purchase tablet devices for library staff to use when ‘roving': providing support to students away from the help desk (“…you don’t need to log in, I can show you on this!“).