Thursday, 10 March 2011

Handheld Librarian Conference 2011 - Part 2

So to part 2 (for me anyway). the first session I attended was QR codes and augmented reality by Robin Ashford. Robin asked the question why focus on mobile users? Because of the significant growth in mobile usage, in 2010 there was more usage, more apps and more developers. QR stands for Quick Response (probably should have put that in the last post) and allows you to jump from printed content to online content. This could be a video, a website, some useful text. What you need is a web enabled phone with a camera and a QR app. QR codes look like this:

(this is the BBC's)

For a quick an easy guide to QR codes have a look at this Creative library video. So what could this be used for in libraries?

  • film trailers for DVDs in the stacks
  • Art shows and exhibits - link to the website
  • room reservation - they didn't find that this was that useful as it didn't go to a dynamic page
  • library tutorial (videos)
  • in the library catalogue - gives you the title, author and call number (you can scan the code and then go to the shelf for the book) - I can see this being useful as so many students type class numbers into their phones (University of Bath use this)
  • Promotional cards or poster to library mobile websites
You need to be aware that using a QR could actually have a negative impact if it doesn't go to somewhere useful. Plus remember not to overdo it. You need to ask the question does this add value?

What are the challenges to using QR codes?
  • not everyone has an Internet enable device yet - this is true but I see us using them additional rather than to replace other things
  • poor implementation of QR codes - you need to get it right or it won't add value
  • not the prettiest
  • need for education and promotion
  • privacy issue
And for the future we need ask
  • how long will they stick around?
  • will they mainstream?
  • does this matter?
Robin then went on the talk about augmented reality (AR). AR overlays virtual date with what you see in the world. It combines the real and virtual worlds. Here's a Common Craft video explaining what AR is. This could be used to create campus and library tours. You use can use existing information or create your own story. Take a look at this Junaio AR browser with image recognition. There are other examples using this app as well. It give you an idea of the things you can do with AR. How about using to help with changing the toner in a printer - useful? Potentially but you could do something similar with a QR code that takes you to a video of how to do it. There does seem to be potential there and this is likely to be a growing area.

The challenges of using AR are:

  • Devices need to robust and have GPS and a compass
  • Apps are always easy to use
  • You don't know what's a available - because it's based on the real world, there is no marker to tell you that additional information is there, you just have to hold up your phone and scan around. With a QR code there is something physical to tell you that there is more information available.
I certainly think it's something to watch and one of the later talks showed how this had been used practically within a library service. This presentation was by Sarah Houghton-Jan and Nate Hill, both of whom are based in public library services in the US. In order to make augmented reality work you need GPS, a camera and an accelerometer (to do with direction). Sarah talked about a few different apps that are out there. Wikitude connects information held in wikipedia with reality. The digital content is layered over the real world. Layar is the most popular of these apps at the moment. Google Goggles can scan covers of books, artwork, album covers and then searches the web for information about the thing you have scanned.

A lot of the applications for AR are still a bit clunky and bigger screens tend to work better with it. Sarah and Nate worked on a project (it's still on-going) to create local history walking tours in San Jose. The aim is to create a mobile web application using a Layar-based tour. The originally were going to design and Apple and Android app but as they were unable to recruit developers they changed direction and created a web based app using html5 - this actually makes it more accessible to more devices so in the long run this was a good decision. I found it really useful to hear that as you kind of thing you should be thinking in terms of creating iPhone and Android apps but actually doing it browser based means it would reach more people and you are more likely to have people with the skills in house to develop it. Testing across platforms is quite difficult and Nate borrowed a range of phones from others to test the application. Sarah and Nate also said that with GPS you can narrow down to a building but things within buildings are more tricky - so that made me wonder whether this could be used for library tours as was stated in the previous presentation. It could be that I am getting the technology confused because I don't know enough about it yet.

The last presentation I'm going to talk about here was by Andrew Walsh from the University of Huddersfield talking about handheld information literacy: mobilizing existing models. This session was really useful to me because we are just about to look at overhauling our information literacy/user education and I was able to pass on feedback from this session to the steering group looking at this. Andrew talked about models of information literacy (IL). The term was first used in 1974 by Paul Zurkowski. Early IL talked about what it was in terms of broad concepts and ideas but no method of measuring how information literate people were. Early 1990s onward were dominated by the Delphi study by Doyle (1992). The concept of "access, evaluate and use information from a variety of sources" became backed up by a large list of attributes. These attributes tended to be the least controversial as they were the ones agree upon by a group of "experts". A number of competency models were then developed (ACRL and Sconul 7 pillars etc). These models show the attributes of the information literate person and are generally based on the options of a group of experts. There is a lot of overlap between the different models.

These models were developed in the pre-mobile world. They imply that it's easy to measure IL irrelevant of the discipline in which a person is working as though there is some "absolute" of IL.

Relational models take a different approach. Christine Bruce's (1997) "Seven faces of information literacy" is an example of this. These models take the experience from the users and are very different to competency based models. It depends on the person and how they relate to the information at that time. Sylvia Edwards (2006) in "Panning for Gold: information literacy and the net lenses model" talks about different lenses to searching but that individuals should be able to decide what is appropriate in the situation in which they are searching, you can choose. They are different options rather than a need to work through the different levels like in a competency model. The concept of IL means different things depending on the context in which you are operating and the process you are undertaking.

So mobile IL - how does this differ from traditional IL? Andrew outlined 4 key areas:
  • Where? - traditional IL is largely in set places (desktop PC) at a fixed workplace, within a library. Mobile - anywhere and on any mobile device
  • What? - traditional IL could be anything. Mobile tends to be quick information at the point of need, often context or location specific
  • How? - traditional IL uses a range of established tools to access and manage wide range of information sources. Mobile is often narrow apps and individual specialist sites rather than the open web
  • Time spent? - traditional IL the time varies, often slow, long periods spent searching, organising and extracting information especially for academic use. Mobile is quick, fast only, shorter search and little pondering

More information needs occur in the home and even when there is a PC available users tend to turn to their mobile device rather than log onto a PC and use their normal search methods. Mobile searching tends to be app based rather than web based.

Andrew concluded that there is a desire for information on the move that is concept specific, that competency models just don't cut it anymore and that we need to research and define mobile IL to equip us for the near future. There aren't any models that look at IL for info needs on the move. We need to ask the questions: how do we know what information to make available in mobile format? How do we know what IL is needed to help users make the most of information on the move? and is this adding value? If it's not it shouldn't be there.

The final session I went to I will post separately as it looked at the top 40 best mobile apps for handheld librarians (in the opinion of Scott Brown) and I thought as this was mainly a list it would be best suited to it's own post.

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