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Report from LIR/AGI Mobile Technologies Symposium, Dublin, 22nd November 2012

Time for another guest blog post, this time from Hugh Murphy who presented at the LIR/AGI Mobile Technologies Symposium. The day generated some really interesting discussion on social media, and all presentations and videos are now available at http://lirgroup.heanet.ie/mobiletech. First a brief introduction to Hugh…

I have the wonderfully protracted title of Senior Librarian, Collection Management Services here at NUI Maynooth. Basically this puts me in the enviable position of having responsibility for and causing general confusion  in our collections (print, rare and digital), our technical services and systems departments. I find technology to be both a massive enabler but also frequently an inhibitor – and this is one of the critical things that fascinates me about mobile – when it’s good, it’s very very good, but when it’s bad (or ill conceived)… well,  I am also a dedicated fighter in the battle against techno determinism. If you want to talk to me, consider a carrier pigeon, flag semaphore or, more realistically either hugh.murphy@nuim.ie or @hughtweet

Over to Hugh for his event report…

Two powerhouse communities of librarians in Ireland, LIR and the Acquisition Group of Ireland joined forces to host Mobile Technologies Symposium recently in Dublin in November 2012. Featuring a variety of interesting presentations from practitioners on both sides of the Irish Sea, the high attendance was a sure sign that it was a topic of interest to those of us who work in libraries (and beyond).  Throughout the talks and from informal discussions, there really was a genuine sense that ‘mobile’s time has come’ – so many of the tools are in place, however what appears to be frequently lacking was the sense that adequate resourcing could be put in place.

Hugh Murphy

Hugh Murphy

I had the honour of speaking in an introductory capacity, with Getting a handle on handheld” and I was at pains to stress the point that mobile is a service option – it is not something that we should simply do because we can.  Thankfully my talk and this point in particular seemed to be quite well received (who wants to die on stage!) and the evidence from those giving case studies seemed to indicate both a considerable amount of thought having gone into the provision of a service, but also thinking seriously about the ‘why’ of it.

Next up was Mobilising your e-content: scholarly information on the move from Alison McNab – who is undoubtedly familiar to many as one of the more prominent voices in this area.  Alison’s talk could scarcely have been more comprehensive and strikes me as a perfect stepping on point for anyone looking to dive into this arena. (Warning – the arena, being mobile, may have moved so look before you leap).  A critical part of Alison’s presentation focused on the gulf that exists between what commercial vendors and publishers are supplying and what we as librarians, and what our users need.  That gulf is vast.

Alison McNab

Alison McNab

Alison’s presentation was complimented in many ways by Ronán Kennedy from NUI Galway who gave us “Who’s doing what: a quick guide of how providers are approaching mobile content”.  Ronán’s typically pithy presentation showed what his institution are doing, but also placed it in the context of broader mobile solutions – again including those offered by vendors generally.

UCD, as Ireland’s largest institution could well be expected to be on the cutting edge of developments in this area and they certainly appear to be moving in the right direction, judging from Joshua Clark and Samantha Drennan’s presentation on “The Mobile Library at UCD – Achievements and Plans”.  Talking to us about developments in UCD and beyond, they really conveyed a sense that the sea change towards mobilised content is growing ever stronger. UCD have taken the opportunity to include mobile optimised content when redesigning their whole web experience – a decision which presumably will continue to pay off for them for some considerable time.

In terms of policy – Ros Pan (also of UCD) spoke about  “library apps: their place in an overall mLibrary strategy and options for creation” Ros is working on a project which will endeavour to give a national snapshot of where we are in terms of library apps and mobilised content. No doubt we can learn from colleagues in the UK who have already undertaken (and benefited?) from a lot of this type of work.

Louise Saults

Louise Saults

NUI Maynooth was ably represented by Louise Saults, who spoke about a very successful NUIM Library Kindle Pilot project which we put in place in 2011 and which is still going strong. The success of this project, to my mind proves that it doesn’t have to be entirely ‘bells and whistles’ – that sometimes the less elaborate option is actually the service solution which our users needs.  That said, the success of this project suggests to me that our users might be ready for another, new solution and it’s up to us to find one that suits them.

David Kane, of Waterford Institute of Technology and Jil Fairclough, of Brighton & Sussex Medical School gave talks which, while arguably more ‘niche’ were no less interesting for it. Jill spoke about “putting digital mobile resources in the hands of medical students – impact, lessons learnt and the future” which detailed findings of the MoMEd project.  This project seems to have been very comprehensively planned and carried out and, from a technology view point, it was fascinating to see the challenges which occur when a project straddles a few years – the tech involved in delivering content has changed dramatically – from PDAs (remember them?!) to Smartphones.  David spoke about the creation of a Plug-in for Moodle and how best to optimise their intuitions’ services in this regard – for mobile and beyond.

Andrew Walsh, University of Huddersfield, is very familiar to many for his participation in Lemontree and he spoke about this in his presentation on “Lemons, badges, fun and games: Gamification and Libraries”.  Having followed the progress of this work from afar it was great to get some detail from one of the central players. What was particularly interesting to me was the fact that part of the potential outcome of the game is to affect user attendance patterns – for example to incentives coming in at certain times.

In conclusion the symposium was excellent – and it would have been hard to give greater illustration of the sheer breadth of work that can fall under the mantle of ‘mobile’.  Of course this diversity brings even greater challenges in many ways, but also indicates to me, that there is huge scope for librarians and others to think very creatively in terms of provision of a new type of service – a service which our users do appear to want.  It would have been nice to have seen somebody discussing Augmented Reality in a library context – this will have to go on the post Christmas to do list. Which will, of course be on my Smartphone!