End of project report

1. Major Outputs

The major outputs of the project have been:

The project has also supported development of existing resources including the HE Lib Tech wiki Mobile Computing page and the Library Success wiki M-libraries page.

2. Background

The remit of the mobile library community support project was slightly different to the other projects within the programme. The aim was to support the community both within and outside the programme, in two main ways:

  1. Evidence gathering
  2. Community building

The objectives of the project were:

  • to build a body of evidence and practice around the notion of libraries and the provision of services and content to mobile devices
  • to seed and develop a sustainable community of practice around the development of m-libraries
  • to provide resources and evidence in usable formats, for example web-based resources, that will enable libraries to make informed choices and effectively develop their m-library provision

3. The challenge

The main challenge the project aimed to address was to begin to bring together different sources of information about mobile library initiatives and projects, and create a sustainable method for sharing new information within the community.

4. Lessons Learnt

Community building

Although we were aware of this at the outset, the project reinforced the fact that community building can be a challenging and time intensive process. Consistently throughout the project there was evidence of a reported demand for a community to share good practice and surface case studies as well as provide a focus for discussion. Although the project was able to seed discussion through blog posts and references to resources the challenge is for the community to take on a life of its own. While we had good feedback about the community there were a significant number of members who did not actively respond to posts or contribute to the discussion. This does not mean that they were not involved in the community but demonstrates there are many ways in which a community can be engaged and the benefits that an individual member might derive from involvement varies (for example, #mlibs tweets about resources frequently get favourited, presumably for people to check out at a later date). Sustainable communities are likely to be the ones that evolve organically over time.  It is questionable to what extent a project over a relatively short time period can result in a self sustaining community. While the project has developed a community it is likely that some further shaping and pump priming activity would be valuable over the short to medium term to ensure that it develops further.

Community website

A community website was in this case not the right option. Fortunately, we kept the approach flexible and did not dedicate a lot of project time to this as we wanted to see how the community responded before investing time. After gathering feedback it was decided a simpler approach of using a mailing list and a blog would better suit the needs of the community at present. The main lesson here was to remain flexible and open to adapting to suit the needs of the community (which makes it more difficult to plan but should hopefully ensure the delivered output is of greater use).

Case study collection

We had imagined that people would prefer for us to write up case studies following discussions with those who had been involved in projects. This was not the case in practice; people were offered this option but chose instead to write it themselves. Although initially this released some project time, it actually meant quite a lot of time spent co-ordinating and chasing case studies and difficulty in planning timing and quantity of case studies. There are still some outstanding case studies which we would like to share but are waiting for information about. In future it may be better to arrange visits or interviews and take a lead role on producing case studies rather than relying on staff external to the project who have competing priorities.

5. Conclusions

The objectives of the project have largely been met, though whether the community is sustainable remains to be seen. The community of practice has been supported by the information sharing event, the blog, the community site, and the mailing list as well as conversations on existing communication tools such as Twitter. Feedback from the m-libraries community (and research from LIS RiLIES project) suggests that events are a key dissemination tool for practitioners and we hope that the event organised by the project as well as presentations given at other events has helped support wider dissemination of our project findings and resources. Future events on m-libraries or mobile technologies session in wider LIS events will be one route to continue sharing of best practice.

The case studies and pathways to best practice guides have been key in providing resources and evidence to enable libraries to make informed choices. These project documents in addition to the resources collected on social bookmarking sites and those shared via the blog have been a core aspect of building a body of evidence and practice around provision of services and content to mobile devices.

As the project only has a short timescale, it has been difficult to ensure sustainability of the work of the project. It is hoped that the resources will continue to be useful in the short to medium term, and that discussions which take place on the mailing list and at relevant events will support longer term sharing of best practice.

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