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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!

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.

Pathways To Best Practice guides

We’ve recently launched a new feature on the blog – the Pathways to Best Practice guides. This series of documents brings together the resources we’ve been collecting during the project as well as examples of initiatives and the lessons learned which should help you if you are thinking of implementing something similar.

The Pathways To Best Practice are available now from the menubar, or you can access them all from the Pathways to Best Practice starting page. Below is a preview of the guides you’ll be able to find (click on the image to go to the starting page).

Pathways To Best Practice guides

Pathways To Best Practice guides (click on image to go to starting page)

Case studies page

Throughout the course of the projects we’ve been collecting a number of case studies; some of which we’ve shared via the blog, and some via the test community site. We’ve now created a page to bring all these together with a brief overview of each case study – this can be accessed from the menu bar or directly at: https://mlibraries.jiscinvolve.org/case-studies/ 

The case studies are:

The project will soon be coming to a close, but if you have any work within the area of mobile technologies in libraries that you would like to share with others via a case study, please let me know (ideally we’d be looking to get everything published before the end of September).

Mobile technologies in libraries – end of project survey

The m-libraries support project is part of JISC’s Mobile Infrastructure for Libraries programme running from November 2011 until September 2012.

The project aims to build a collection of useful resources and case studies based on current developments using mobile technologies in libraries, and to foster a community for those working in the m-library area or interested in learning more.

At the beginning of the project we ran a survey to gather information, to discover what was needed to help libraries decide on a way forward, and to begin to understand what an m-libraries community could offer to help (full report available). It’s now time to revisit these areas to see how things have changed.

Please answer the following few questions – they should only take 5-10 minutes and all questions are optional.

This is an open survey – please pass the survey link on to anyone else you think might be interested via email or social media: http://svy.mk/mlibs2


Perspectives on mobile delivery

Cake and conversation by joeyanne, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  joeyanne 

Last week I delivered a workshop in collaboration with Gill Needham from Open University. We’d both been invited to give a presentation at the Cake and Conversation: The power of a Library in the palm of your hand event with a practical focus to members of staff at University of Bath. We thought it made sense to combine our time and work together to enable us to plan a full workshop themed on ‘perspectives on mobile delivery’. We took a broad approach first, narrowing it down and then looking forward:

  1. Perspectives on mobile delivery – horizon scanning (presentation slides)
  2. Perspectives on mobile delivery – case study (presentation slides)
  3. Perspectives on mobile delivery – activity
  4. Perspectives on mobile delivery – looking forward (presentation slides)

I began the workshop by giving an overview of some of the work currently happening in mobile technologies in libraries, including the work of the JISC Mobile Infrastructure for Libraries programme as well as further afield. I’m currently working on some pathways to best practice documents on a number of different topics and shared some of the examples we’ve collected as part of that.

Gill then gave a really useful overview of the work Open University have been involved in over the last few years, researching how users could utilise mobile devices for library resources and services, and how their mobile offerings have developed. One point I found particularly telling is that access to resources via mobile is one of the criteria used by Open University for selection of online resources, demonstrating the fact that this is now expected rather than an additional bonus.

We then worked together on an activity for the attendees. They had been split into six groups with a mixture of library, IT, learning technologies and academic staff in each group. Each group was given a persona which they had to consider in the context of providing a mobile service to support them in their studies/research. Gill and I were really impressed with the creativity shown (and the amount of effort some groups had put into giving their product a name!). Each are outlined below…


Laura (click for full persona) is a researcher in psychology who spends a lot of time travelling and therefore needs to be able to work (e.g. perform literature searches) whilst mobile, using her iPad. The group came up with an idea for a collaborative online research space called LAURA (Learning Academic User Research Area) which would enable Laura and her colleagues to add notes, comments and ideas about the research from wherever they are to a secure area which is regularly backed up. This area would be structured and searchable, and would also include journal alerts for relevant research.

Laura by joeyanne, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  joeyanne 



Simon (click for full persona) is a Sports and Exercise Science student who spends a lot of time playing sport. He tends to study during the day as he works or socialises in the evening, and although he visits the library regularly he isn’t familiar with the library systems or how to find library resources. The group decided to utilise the opportunity to promote the library services to Simon by developing a mobile web service. This service would provide library specific as well as extra study resources and would integrate VLE, Student Union, maps and space management, and account information as well as provide social functions and augmented reality.

Simon by joeyanne, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  joeyanne 


Sandi (click for full persona) is currently on placement for her social work degree. She spends a lot of time travelling between clients and also is a single parent of a young daughter. She struggles to organise her work and studies and has very little time for reading but is aware that she needs more. The approach this group took was really interesting – they broke her day up to work out when she could study and what they could develop to help her. They came up with the idea of a v3Rs (Voice Recognition Reading Recommendation Service), which she could use whilst driving to dictate notes based on her experiences with clients. This would free up time which she usually spends typing up notes, and would also act as a smart search engine. The system would look for key research terms within her notes, and search subject specific databases for relevant readings. When she was ready to study that evening, she would have a list of the appropriate resources ready to read.

Sandi by joeyanne, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  joeyanne 


Joshua (click for full persona) is a final year student studying International Management and Modern Languages. He has recently returned from his year studying abroad, and travels regularly both for studying and volunteering during vacation. The group highlighted the fact that for some like Joshua who travels a lot, offline access to material is important to reduce roaming data charges, and access to resources from different devices is an advantage. They came up with the idea of an app for all platforms which would bring together all the relevant study resources including library services and resources, VLE, bibliographic management, portfolio and social networks. As much of this as possible would be available for offline download so it can be accessed without an internet connection.

Joshua by joeyanne, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  joeyanne 


Jamila (click for full persona) is studying for an MBA via distance learning. She is sponsored by her employer and works as a senior account executive for a large advertising agency with offices in New York, Tokyo and London. She travels a lot and is constantly connected online via her MacBook, iPad and iPhone. The group came up with an idea for PRIME (Positive Recommendations & Information Mobile Experience), a mobile-friendly recommendation platform that would source library content from departmental contacts, course colleagues, alumni and business contacts and provide a means of offline content provision.

Jamila by joeyanne, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  joeyanne 


Liam (click for full persona) is an art history academic with a flamboyant teaching style. He isn’t too comfortable with technology but knows he needs to meet the expectations of his students to understand more about how to utilise mobile devices. The group came up with an multi-pronged approach for Liam to provide support for both his own needs and his students’ needs. Liam would have a pre-loaded customised iPad with capability to capture videos and post to a video blog which would be embedded into Moodle. This would be used for additional lecture material or pre-study material. For his own needs the iPad would be used to help him manage access to library resources, both online resources and reminders for renewing print resources.

Liam by joeyanne, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  joeyanne 

Following the presentation of these ideas, Gill and myself briefly gave an overview of some of the steps forward including the community support aspect of the JISC m-library community support project and the International m-libraries conference at Open University in September.

I’d like to thank both the organisers and the attendees for a really engaging workshop and lots of innovative ideas, and Gill for working with me to deliver this workshop.

The full set of photographs from the day are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joeyanne/sets/72157630600387600/

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).

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 (http://www.slideshare.net/mirya/resource-discovery-on-mobile-devices-keren-mills) 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

Mlibs event – Augmented Reality for Special Collections

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.

Matt Ramirez

Matt Ramirez

Matt Ramirez (Mimas) gave a presentation during the afternoon breakout sessions on the topic of Augmented Reality for Special Collections. The presentation was based on the work of the JISC-funded Special Collections using Augmented Reality to Enhance Learning and Teaching (SCARLET) project. The main points from Matt’s session were recorded by flipchart:

  • SCARLET project used Junaio app to create their A.R.
  • Students wanted to be able to interact with A.R. models, rather than just being signposted elsewhere
  • Useful tool for enquiry based learning
  • SCARLET toolkit will be available to use
  • Sketchup good for pre-built 3D models
  • No W3C standards for A.R. browsers
A more detailed overview is below, thanks to Pete Dalton:

Matt presented details of the Special Collections using Augmented Reality to Enhance Learning and Teaching (SCARLET) Project at the University of Manchester (Mimas) in collaboration with the John Ryland Library.   Through the use of Augmented reality through mobile devices students are able to have more immersive experiences when interacting with rare materials in special collections.  While viewing an object first-hand, AR markers and  spatial triggers provide access to supporting materials through mobile devices to enhance the learning experience.  Through the use of mobile technology the original object is in effect ‘surrounded’ by additional contextual material to enhance the learning experience.

It was reported that to date that the AR functionality had been generally well received by students.  The project had learned lessons about developing such content including not underestimating the time it takes to create the surrounding content and the need to get buy in from all stakeholders. In addition it was clear that AR should be presented as a unique additional experience and not an attempt to simply duplicate other experiences.

It was noted that this was a rapidly developing area and that the project had only begun to scratch the surface of what might be possible in the use of AR.  New possibilities were opening up all the time such as the ability for browsers to visually recognise 3D.

Matt highlighted the forthcoming Augmented Reality toolkit that the project will produce which can help others to harness AR to support teaching and research.

You can find out more about the project (including news about an extension project, SCARLET+) on the SCARLET project blog. You may also be interested in reading the case study the SCARLET team wrote for our community website, and if you have a smartphone you can sample the AR using the SCARLET demonstrator channel.