Friday, 25 June 2010

Going mobile

I love free wifi and can't wait for the day when it will be available everywhere I go. I get quite upset with service providers that expect me to pay for access, for example in hotels or at train stations.  Every Friday I head in early to do some study before working in the medical library, I connect to libair and happily access all the journals I need.  [Libair can be a bit annoying though, knocking me off-line even though I've left the 'log out' browser window open.  I don't know if that's the same for everyone or just because I'm working in Ubuntu.]

I have been known to whip out the laptop while in the hospital canteen so I can check my emails then rather eating into my study time.  I have used wifi connections at a conference to tweet the event and when travelling to make sure that I really am going to the right place and there really is a train/plane/bus/meeting at the time I think it's at (anyone else get paranoid like this sometimes?)  Even at home I access the internet through a router rather than hooking up the old way.

I used the wifi on my Irish mobile, but to be honest I haven't tried on my UK phone and haven't missed it.  Besides, I was always afraid I'd discover I had connected through the far more expensive 3G connection instead of a free service.  I'm not surprised that the M-Libraries report found that people prefer to use their phone for text and voice services rather than web services (so far!), but I like the idea of being able to take out a phone to check a street map instead of having to take out my laptop.

Now I sound like I'm permanently online!  I'm not, and I do think there are times when an escape from the internet is needed.  If I'm away (as I will be next week) the phone gets left beside the bed each day and the internet is used only for planning excursions, if at all.

So mobile technologies in the library?  I know that the JISC Cambridge Library Widgets project is looking at this area and have been following their blog for developments.  On an ongoing basis, the most basic issue is obviously making sure that the system is working, or if it's down, getting it back up as soon as possible.  We need to make sure that our OPAC and book renewal functionality display well on a very small screen, and if not, we need to create mobile versions of them.  Other libraries have developed audio tours of the library, provided reference services via instant messaging, signed visitors up on the spot to library programmes and used them when "roving" to check the catalogue on behalf of the students (sorry, can't remember where I read about that one.)  If anyone has any more examples of interesting uses of mobile technology in the library, please let me know!

In the M-Library report, Keren Mills makes the excellent point that developing these services costs money. We have to balance the value of each of these services with the costs of developing them, bearing in mind that not all of our students will want to use them anyway.

Image above taken from Flickr, with thanks to shapeshift.

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