Thursday, 3 March 2011

Handheld Librarian Conference 2011 - part 1

OK so finally catching up with the Handheld Librarian Conference from last week. I was never going to be able to view the presentations live due to the timing of the event but having booked it I realised I needed to take leave. Anyway this week I am catching up.

So I pretended to be a student and set myself up in our social learning zone to make sure I got some peace to listen to the recordings of the sessions.

The first session I attended was led by Amy Vecchione and Margie Ruppel talking about their SMS reference service. Students can text a question and an "expert" will text them an answer. They used LibAnswers but there are number of services available. They particularly liked this service because linked to their FAQs, had good statistical reporting and it gave out of office messages. As of January they were up to 100 text messages a month. It was the librarians on the reference desk who dealt with these queries and they could use a PC to answer them, rather than a phone.

They surveyed a particular course group about the service, 35 students completed the survey, 14% had previously used an SMS reference service elsewhere, 91% said they'd use the service again. They got a 91% positive response when asking how much the students liked the service. Interestingly when they asked students whether the would want answers referring them to print and online or online only 77% wanted print and online.

Interestingly when asked how often they asked for help at a traditional desk only 29% said frequently or somewhat frequently. When asked why I was quite disturbed to see that 57% said it was because the person doesn't look like the want to help or looks too busy. I do wonder how we tackle this, as it's difficult getting a balance between sitting there looking like you're not doing anything and looking too busy. Tricky. However 49% said it was because they didn't want to get up from their PC so maybe it's not all bad.

After introducing this service they have seen a 57% increase in the number of questions asked at the desk - they hope this is down to them having a positive experience with the SMS service, encouraging them that staff are able to help and won't treat them like they are stupid for not knowing the answer. They don't use a triage system, it's the librarians that answer the questions whatever the nature of those questions.

So why should you use SMS reference?
  • to attract a new user base

  • it's convenient to the patron

  • it's another form of reference

  • it's easily implemented

  • it provides patrons with as many ways as possible to reach us

Marketing ideas

  • use your website

  • have an "ask a librarian day" to launch the service or just to generally promote the librarians as a resource

  • - have a marketing toolkit with some good ideas

  • Know it Now Ohio - there is marketing ideas on their website

I really like their Ask Away signs and think this is something we could definitely use. They displayed all the ways you could ask for help, include a QR code.

The second session I attended was by Joe Murphy talking about next trends in mobile technology. He told us that smartphones now outsell PCs and this defines where we should be focusing our resources. New trend areas are location, photosharing and check-ins. He talked about Consumer technology - what's guiding people's behvaiour - and foundational technologies - these shift with massive change. Foursquare is now a current technology, it's widespread rather than emerging. Location is now a foundational technology for emerging trends and libraries need to be aware of these. Foursquare now has 7 million users, which is small when compared to Facebook and Twitter but it's impact is wider than it's number suggest. Foursquare is used a marketing tool as major brands are using this tool. Users can get virtual and real world benefits.

Location of the future - check-in and location diverted from one another but are coming together again. With entertainment check-in it's now not so much about where the activity is taking place but where the participant is engaging in the activity.

He felt that GetGlue was the technology to keep your eyes on. This can be incorporated into what we do in libraries. It strongly brings together than social aspect. Users could check in to books and enhance the experience.

Mobile photosharing is another important area. Foursquare incorporated photosharing into location check-in and had loads of uploads in the first week. It's another way to engage other socially. Instagram is another service to keep an eye. It's seen huge growth in usage. Joe used this in personal and professional life. You can use it to market content, for example he took a picture of a special issue of a journal that he'd edited and used the interactivity of the mobile technology to promote it. It's re-purposing of content.

He also talked about the need for mobile literacy, we need evolving skills to match the shifting trends. He said don't get comfortable because change is constant. We need to change institutional culture to be able to adapt and always be willing to invest time and money to investigate these trends.

So the final session I listening to on the first day was by the Library Tech Team at Fairfield University - they used a number of mobile devices to support their work. They used Evernote to document problems and solutions, this archives the daily activity of the team. It provides instant communication with the tech team, using voice, pictures or videos. They used Skype to communicate with each other via the iTouch 4G or PC with web cam. They used Dropbox where you can save files on one computer and open them on another, this used text, picture and video. This allowed them to open instructions for how to fix technical problems on their mobile devices as well as using Skype. The advantages is instant feedback in realtime and immediate results recording in real time.

I thought some of these ideas could be used by our R&LS team when we are trying to help users with tricky problems out on the floors.

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