Category Archives: Events

LITA Mobile Computing Interest Group meeting at ALA Annual Conference 2012

This blog post was originally posted as a guest blog post on the ACRL TechConnect blog.

I attended the ALA Annual Conference 2012 and was up bright and early to get to the 8am Sunday morning session from the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) Mobile Computing Interest Group (MCIG) session. It included four presentations on a variety of different topics plus Q&A and some time for more general discussion. Below is my summary of the presentations and discussion. (The presentation slides are available at ALA Connect).

NCSU Libraries Mobile Scavenger Hunt
– Anne Burke, North Caroline State University (Slides)

Anne spoke about the way NCSU have revitalised their traditional induction sessions by offering a mobile scavenger hunt to help introduce students to navigating the library and asking librarians for help. They hoped to improve student engagement, foster confidence and introduce students to emerging technologies by using iPod Touches to deliver a scavenger hunt which they worked through in groups. Although they looked into existing solutions such as SCVNGR and Scavenger Hunt with Friends, these were either too costly or relied on geolocation which can be a problem for small areas like libraries.

Their chosen solution uses Evernote (one account for each iPod Touch, and a master one for staff) and a Google spreadsheet alongside a set of questions on paper. Students record their responses via the iPod Touch (either as text, photo or audio) as they move around the library, and staff can keep an eye on progress. When students return, they are shown a slideshow of photos from the groups, given their scores, and prizes are given out (chocolates). Any questions which appeared to cause problems are discussed as part of the feedback also. NCSU use these for an one-hour instruction sessions and are currently looking into offering a self-guided version. Further details are available on the NCSU library website.

Gimme! The mobile app development project at Scottsdale Public Library
– Aimee Fifarek and Ann Porter, Scottsdale Public Library (Slides)

Aimee and Ann shared their experiences of developing a mobile app using a grant fund. Unusually, Scottsdale Public Library received funding before deciding what sort of mobile app they wanted to produce. They established a project team bringing together technology staff and tech-savvy staff from across the library in order to get investment from a variety of different areas first, and then brainstormed ideas with the team. They also wanted to ensure whatever they built was valuable to their customer base so they employed consultants to research user needs. The consultants also then developed the app and supported implementation.

The mobile app they chose to produce, Gimme!, is a book recommendation system which combines catalogue details with book recommendations from library staff. A number of different systems are used to achieve this – they use the Goodreads API with Feedburner (which they get from their library catalogue) to combine reviews with the descriptions and book covers (using the ISBN to link it together). Gimme! works across all devices, you can try it out at:

Before the first Connection: A marketing campaign for a Law Library’s Mobile Application
– Terry Ballard, New York Law School, Mendik Library (Slides)

Terry spoke about how the New York Law School had wanted to get ahead of the curve by implementing a mobile app. Having investigated a number of options, they chose to use a third-party solution, Boopsie. However at the time it didn’t offer support for course reserves. They spoke to Boopsie about this and arranged for Boopsie to develop this additional functionality (at no extra cost as they were aware that other libraries would be interested in this feature as well). They also wanted to integrate a Google Custom Search on mobile, so they spoke to Google and were able to add this option. Although the usage of the mobile app has so far been relatively low, the number of search sessions via mobile has stayed relatively high since the launch.

It’s time to look at our mobile website again
– Bohyun Kim, Florida International University Medical Library (Slides)

Bohyun presented a really interesting overview of the current state of mobile websites for libraries. To set the context, she gave some figures about mobile web usage in US – more mobile devices are now shipping than desktops, and over the last 5 years AT&T mobile web use has grown by 20,000%! As devices and mobile web capabilities have improved, the way we expect to use mobile websites is changing. We are spending more time accessing the web via our mobiles instead of desktop and are doing more detailed tasks such as research and shopping. Bohyun looked at the mobile websites which Aaron Tay reviewed in 2010 and revisited them to see how they had changed. It was really interesting to see the changes, many of which were common to most websites:

  • Research tools being added (or made more prominent), often with a search bar at the top of the mobile website
  • Additional functionality for library transactions (view the library account, course reserve, renew books and other items on loan)

Design had generally simplified and moved towards websites that look similar to native mobile apps, though there were different approaches. For example, some library mobile websites had moved from a list to icons, whilst others have moved from icons to a list! Bohyun concluded that it is no longer relevant to have a companion site for mobile with minimum content – the mobile site should aim to deliver the same functionality as the main website. She emphasised the importance of an environmental scan to see what others are doing, and to research your target audience to understand their needs and expectations and commented on how to market your mobile service more effectively.


The four presentations were all excellent and we had lots of Q&As so discussion was dispersed throughout, but we also briefly discussed the general topic of responsive web design. This followed nicely from Bohyun’s presentation as it is evident that there is no longer a clear cut difference between what we expect from a mobile website and what we expect from a desktop website. Add to the mix the tablet market and its varying sizes, and it is clear that responsive web design is a useful approach to take. Fortunately, there was a presentation at the conference later that day on responsive web design and you can view further information and a copy of the presentation online.

As last time, I found the mobile computing interest group session really interesting and encourage anyone interested in mobile technologies in libraries to follow the future discussions and webinars from LITA MCIG.

Upcoming events

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be attending some events to talk about the JISC-funded mobile library support project as well as share some of the evidence we’ve been collecting throughout the project.

Cake and conversation: the power of the library in your hand – University of Bath (12th July)

Later today I’ll be presenting a workshop at the University of Bath organised by the library for staff from across the university (library, elearning, academics and UKOLN). It’s a two hour practical workshop devised in collaboration with Gill Needham from the Open University. We’ve themed the workshop on perspectives of mobile delivery and have included horizon scanning, a case study from the Open University, an activity for the attendees, and suggestions for support and inspiration looking forward.

CILIP Mobile Technology Briefing (19th July)

Next week, I’ll be heading to CILIP HQ in London to present at the CILIP Mobile Technology Briefing chaired by Phil Bradley, CILIP President. The full day programme covers a wide range of different areas of mobile technologies, and I hope to set the scene at the beginning of the day by talking about some of the possibilities with mobile technologies and the ways people can find out more information.

Hope to see some of you at these events, but if you can’t make either I’ll be tweeting when I can using the #mlibs tag and encouraging others to do the same (the CILIP briefing also has its own hashtag of #mobiletech2012).

Fourth International m-libraries conference – early bird rate extended

The JISC m-library support project is proud to be presenting a session at this event and would like to encourage you to attend – hopefully we’ll see some of you there!

The fourth International m-libraries Conference – 24 – 26 September 2012

“From margin to mainstream: mobile technologies transforming lives and libraries”

Mobile technology has transformed so many aspects of our lives: how we work, how we communicate, how we study and how we play. This conference will explore and share work carried out in libraries around the world to deliver services and resources to users via a growing plethora of mobile and hand-held devices.

The m-libraries conference offers you the opportunity to find out more about the transformation of services, learners or providers because of mobile technology, and hear about the inspiring and innovative projects which challenge current thinking and practice.

The fourth International m-libraries Conference is hosted by The Open University and Athabasca University with support from conference sponsors EBSCO Host, Sage, Springer and OCLC. It will bring together researchers, educators, technical developers, managers and library professionals to share experience and exchange expertise with colleagues at the cutting edge of mobile use and development and to generate ideas for future developments.

This exciting and engaging conference will be held at The Open University in Milton Keynes from 24 – 26 September 2012.

Delegate registration is now open with early bird rates available until 24 June 2012.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Ellyssa Kroski, New York Law Institute (US)
  • Char Booth, Claremont Colleges (US)
  • Thomas Cochrane, AUT University’s Centre for Learning and Teaching (NZ)
  • Steve Vosloo, Programme Specialist in Mobile Learning at UNESCO (FR)

For more information about the conference including the full list of speakers go to:

Mlibs event – lightning talks

In addition to the more in-depth breakout sessions at the mobile technologies in libraries: information sharing event, we also had a series of lightning talks. Each presenter had 5 minutes to give a very brief overview of a topic they wanted to talk about – anything went as long as it fitted into the broad topic of mobile technologies in libraries.

Below are the relevant links to resources for each of the sessions:

Mlibs event – Mobile devices in the physical environment in libraries, exhibitions and galleries

This is part of a series of blog posts based on the sessions held at the Mobile technologies in libraries: information sharing event. More resources from the day are available at the event Lanyrd page.

Gary Green

Gary Green

Jason Curtis (Shrewsbury & Telford Hospitals NHS Trust), Gary Green (Surrey County Council), and Peter Kargbo (Manchester Metropolitan University) facilitated a group discussion during the morning breakout sessions on using mobile devices to link the physical to the virtual. Gary had prepared a collection of links on Delicious to help shape the discussion, and ideas were shared by those attending the session too.

Some topics discussed in this session included:

  • AR Apps – scan location to find local areas of interest e.g. restaurant – including Layar and Wikitude
  • Aurasma – AR app to scan book cover & view video reviews
  • Using AR to see videos for exhibitions (e.g. John Rylands)
  • AR issues round technology e.g. reflections/lighting
  • How do users know about AR?
  • Rooms tagged to provide further info on room (e.g. British Museum)
  • QR code based quizzes e.g. for school groups
  • Lists of journals with QR codes
  • Problem linking to non-mobile sites
  • Study rooms and booking forms – system for real-time booking
  • How to track usage of QR codes? – Google tracking codes
  • Complex QR codes may be difficult to scan on some devices
  • QR codes on opening hours posters e.g. holidays  – feedback very useful
  • QR codes on catalogues e.g.
  • Concerns over data charges (study at Huddersfield) and use
  • Could use plain text for contact details etc. – how to update
  • Finding out more especially visual search
  • Using QR codes to book computers in FE libraries, give students some independence

The facilitators asked everyone in the group to note down some of the challenges faced in implementing such technologies. The key themes emerging from those notes were:

  • Acceptance of mobile technologies in libraries
  • Lack of awareness of technologies from library staff
  • Lack of awareness of technologies from users – will they need to be trained?
  • Uncertainty about technologies in terms of their suitability for meeting a need – sometimes it can seem like a solution looking for a problem
  • How to apply the use of technologies in local context – which technologies to use, where, how…
  • What skills are needed to implement these technologies?
  • What have other people done? How can we learn from that?
  • What resource is needed to implement? What benefits will we gain?

Mlibs event – Delivering existing library-owned content (e.g. historical maps) on mobile devices

This is part of a series of blog posts based on the sessions held at the Mobile technologies in libraries: information sharing event. More resources from the day are available at the event Lanyrd page.

Ed Fay

Ed Fay

Ed Fay (London School of Economics) presented a demonstration of the PhoneBooth project (part of the JISC mobile infrastructure for libraries programme) during the afternoon breakout sessions.

The PhoneBooth project is taking existing library owned data and repurposing it for use on mobile devices. In this case the data is historical maps from the Charles Booth Online Archive – from Booth’s survey into life and labour in London (1886-1903). The materials are already available digitally, and the PhoneBooth project is building on this to bring the data to mobile devices. This will then enable examination of the map data whilst out on location, as well as comparison with current geographical map data.

The PhoneBooth project is currently at the prototyping stage and Ed provided a demonstration during the workshop as well as providing a handout to explain the project and show the maps overlaid with other geographical data such as Google Maps and the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2010. The handout is available online:

For further information about the JISC PhoneBooth project is available from the project blog:

Mlibs event – Developing a mobile strategy for the library

This is part of a series of blog posts based on the sessions held at the Mobile technologies in libraries: information sharing event. More resources from the day are available at the event Lanyrd page.

Kay Munro and Rosemary Stenson

Kay Munro and Rosemary Stenson

Kay Munro and Rosemary Stenson (both from University of Glasgow) facilitated a presentation and discussion on developing a mobile strategy for the library during the morning breakout sessions.

In early 2010, monthly data from Google Analytics began to show significant and steadily increasing traffic to the Library website from mobile devices. In response to this need to support mobile technologies, University of Glasgow Library established a Mobile Technologies Group, and later, a Mobile Strategy for the library. Kay and Rosemary discussed the development of the ten-strand project plan and progress so far on the implementation and delivery of different areas of the strategy.

In order for library staff to be able to support their users, the Mobile Technologies Group have realised the library staff need support and training to help them understand the technologies. One way they hope to support this is with the Live Lab they have which has a variety of mobile devices for library staff to try out to see how they can be supported and used in a library context. Another initiative they are trialling is a 23 Things Mobile course which will introduce staff to different areas of mobile technologies and encourage them to ‘play’ with them – this initiative has support from senior management and staff will be able to spend an hour a week during the course on this. There was a lot of interest in this and Kay and Rosemary say they hope to be able to share the resources once they have tested out the course.

It was really interesting to hear about the strategic approach University of Glasgow have taken towards this and I’m sure other libraries can learn a lot from this approach. The key points to take away from the session were:

  • Develop a strategy rather than just ideas
  • Keep the framework flexible as technologies change rapidly
  • Get all library staff involved (including senior management)
  • Understand your users, their devices and what they want to do on their mobiles

Kay and Rosemary’s slides are available on Slideshare ( and Kay also contributed a case study on developing a mobile strategy for the m-libraries community site.

Mlibs event – Bibliographic management on mobile devices

This is part of a series of blog posts based on the sessions held at the Mobile technologies in libraries: information sharing event. More resources from the day are available at the event Lanyrd page.

Mike Jones

Mike Jones

Mike Jones (University of Bristol) presented during the afternoon breakout sessions on bibliographic management on mobile devices.

Mike gave an overview of the m-biblio project which is being undertaken at the University of Bristol as part of the JISC Mobile Infrastructure for Libraries programme.

The project is investigating the use of mobile devices in capturing references and looking at how it might be possible to gather useful statistics for the Library, including data about library items that are often confined to branches such as periodicals, journals and reference books.

The project has included a student survey and a workshop, both of which have contributed to a greater understanding of how students use bibliographic data and how this can be supported by mobile devices. This also uncovered the pain points and what students would like from a simple piece of software to help:

Compile them, format them to the desired style, and alphabetise

The m-biblio project has ensured that the information from the survey and the workshop has fed into the development of the mobile app, which we were fortunate enough to watch a demo of. Mike was able to scan the barcode of a book and get the bibliographic data into the app, and also showed us how you can add information in (or edit) manually – great for when the information isn’t quite right. He then showed us how to export the list ready for adding to assignments.

Although it’s still in development, what’s there so far is simple to use yet effective and we all agreed it would be great to be able to offer this sort of app to our students.

Some brief notes from the flipchart based on the discussion that followed the presentation and demo:

  • Easybib –  mobile app for bibliographic data on mobile devices (though doesn’t provide as much functionality as m-biblio)
  • Could m-biblio be available as a mobile website rather than an app? (the project team had investigated this option but decided against it due to the advantage of being able to use the camera through an app)
  • Geolocation – is this creepy or does it have potential for obtaining library metrics (i.e. where materials are being used)

Mike’s presentation is available on Slideshare at and for more information on the m-biblio project you can visit their project blog.

Mlibs event – Resource discovery on mobile devices

This is part of a series of blog posts based on the sessions held at the Mobile technologies in libraries: information sharing event. More resources from the day are available at the event Lanyrd page.

Keren Mills (The Open University) gave a presentation during the afternoon breakout sessions focused on resource discover on mobile devices. This was based largely on the work Keren has been involved in with the MACON project as part of the JISC Mobile Infrastructure for Libraries programme. The notes below have been contributed by Ben Showers who attended Keren’s session

Keren Mills

Keren Mills

Before Keren began her presentation she asked the librarians present what the top things they wanted from discovery tools. She then asked what their students wanted from discovery tools.

The list was fairly recognisable:

  • Automated authentication – easy access and minimise the need to type.
  • Relevance ranking
  • ‘find similar’ type services (Amazon style)
  • spell checking/auto correct/complete type functionality (although it was recognised this can be frustrating in an academic context with complex terms)

In contrast to the high degree of functionality and granularity that is expected by librarians (and academics) from discovery services, a lot of research highlights that students don’t use or require the same level of functionality (see for example this JISC user behaviour observational study: User behaviour in resource discovery). Furthermore, the functionality available on mobile devices is often constrained, so there’s inevitably a balance between usability and functionality when developing for mobile.

A number of the participants echoed Keren’s analysis, arguing that increasingly library users want a Google like experience. This includes assumptions that the library discovery services will learn more about them the more they use it, a certain level of personalisation – something which is still in its infancy for library discovery services.

Keren stressed the importance of consulting users (students and researchers). One of the big problems with the academic environment is the diversity of the use-cases. It’s important to be clear about who your core audience is (Keren stressed the importance of extracting value from things like analytics, surveys, interviews etc).

It was also clear that libraries should be adopting a ‘mobile first’ policy: start with mobile, and work from there. This approach helps you focus on exactly what you’re trying to deliver.  It’s also beneficial in terms of accessibility and usability, as developing services for mobile incorporates best practice for accessibility.

The clear message from the session was that as professionals we can have very different expectations from the average user and heaping on all the functionality used by expert searchers can overwhelm less experienced searchers who are mostly looking for convenience, especially when they’re using a handheld device. Keren was keen to leave us with a philosophy of reduction wherever possible: reduce the number of required clicks, downloads, and scrolling. If students do have to download (and this is likely as libraries usually don’t create the content they serve) minimise the volume of the downloads.

Less, it seems, is definitely more.

Keren’s presentation is available on Slideshare ( and you can read more about this topic on the MACON project blog.

Mlibs event – Mobile devices in teaching and research: how do libraries support this?

This is part of a series of blog posts based on the sessions held at the Mobile technologies in libraries: information sharing event. More resources from the day are available at the event Lanyrd page.

Sarah Barker (Yale College), Claire Beecroft (University of Sheffield), and Adam Watson (Leeds Metropolitan University) facilitated a group discussion during the morning breakout sessions. These notes have been contributed by Pete Dalton.

Sarah Barker and Claire Beecroft

Sarah Barker and Claire Beecroft

The session took the form of a facilitated group discussion and was wide ranging in coverage.  People shared experiences about how they were using, or hoped to use, mobile technologies in supporting teaching and research as well as in delivering library services and other campus wide services. These discussions painted a diverse picture of library activity in this area.

Discussions focussed on challenges to implementing mobile technologies.  These included:

  • cost of vendor provided services including costs for ongoing upgrades
  • decisions on whether separate mobile sites should be developed or whether a single point of access would be provided regardless of device used for access
  • variability of availability of mobile friendly apps from vendors
  • in some areas technology is ‘ahead of the law’ in this area and mobile allows the possibility of services which currently are not legal
  • the possibility of an institution using a service that it subscribes to as it is tied into that service when a free app might actually serve the purpose more effectively
  • support issues around free apps
  • the need for user education in the mobile area – one cannot assume that people know how best to use mobile services to support their learning or research because they know how to use mobile technologies in other contexts

Two key messages from the session were:

  1. There was a general consensus that institutions needed to embrace mobile technology or risk the services that libraries might provide to support teaching and research not being fully exploited as users access other services through mobile devices
  2. The quality of content delivered was of paramount importance regardless of the medium of delivery