Posts Tagged ‘systems development’

QR codes AWAY!

Posted on July 7th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

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:

  1. Add QR codes to print journal box labels, to link our print holdings to the corresponding e-journal record (c.f. this photo);
  2. ‘Soft launch’ the mobile version of RefWorks (RefMobile) to our users;
  3. 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:

  1. Run a marketing campaign to encourage people to re-consider their mobile phone as a useful academic tool (“the classroom in your pocket“?);
  2. 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;
  3. 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!“).

Disruptive influence

Posted on November 27th, 2010 by Paul Stainthorp

This week we launched our long-awaited strategic review of the Library’s ICT systems, with a day’s discussion and planning with library-technology consultant Ken Chad.

Anti-cuts protest in GloucesterJoss Winn (who was there on the day) has already blogged about the love he thinks we can build between us and our users if we get beyond the impersonal ‘survey’ mentality and build a lasting, resilient and genuine relationship out of shared activity…

“By creating a library system that learns from every person who uses it and adapts over time to the environment it is part of, we create a resilient and therefore a sustainable library system that its users fall in love with.”

I’m not very good at self-reflection (see what I did there?), so I’m not here to respond to Joss’s post. Instead, knowing where our systems and processes are at, I’ve been contemplating Ken’s ideas about disruptive technologies in HE libraries, and where we are on the cycle of accepting that our existing model has already been disrupted.

Here are a few reasons why Lincoln is perfectly poised for a bit of disruption:

  • Because we don’t have too much history. Lincoln is a young institution (in its current incarnation, at least), and we’ve been through a lot of changes. (We must have opened—and sadly, closed—more libraries than some institutions have had hot dinners.) We’re pretty good at coping with change; change is our only constant, etc.
  • Because, if we’re being honest, we probably don’t have as much at stake as some older, richer, universities. We’re more than used to doing things on a shoestring and looking for free solutions to our problems, ideally to supplement, but as often as not instead of investment in commercial systems (poverty breeding experimentation). As a result, our systems are not too overdeveloped, and we should be able to make quick changes of direction without too much pain.
  • Because we have the Student as Producer agenda; we have a Library Innovation Group; we have projects such as Jerome, Nucleus, Total ReCal, and so on. In short, we’re surrounded by the academic theory, the administrative machinery, and the working examples to justify an actively disruptive approach to systems development.
  • Because of where we are: I’m convinced there’s a benefit to living on the periphery.
  • Because (like the countryside, ho ho) the Library staff structure is relatively ‘flat’. No-one’s going to be strung up for speaking out of turn; nobody’s ideas are beyond the Pale; there’s not too much store placed in hierarchy. I sincerely hope this to be true.
  • Finally, because of our vice-chancellor’s attitude. Professor Mary Stuart has mentioned (at least twice, in presentations I’ve attended) the imperative to—for want of a better phrase—mash things up. Assuming she really means it—and I’ve no reason to doubt that she does—we’re much better off than if we had to work under the disapproving gaze of a University executive unhappy with experimentation. There are perhaps fewer techno-reactionary voices in the Lincoln establishment than at some other, older universities.

I’m intrigued now by the idea of disruptive technologies in the library, so I’m going to see if I can dig out a few of Clayton Christensen’s books and have a read. Thanks, Ken. (I’ve been following the Disruptive Library Technology Jester for a while now, but I hadn’t realised it was anything other than a clever name.)