Libraries and mobile devices

Our new mobile web page
Our new mobile web page

Today is the Handheld Librarian conference. You can follow the tweets from the conference.  Around 11am I wish I had registered for it. Looking at all of the tweets about the technical problems, I’m not so disappointed. I am hoping that some of the information will be made available later on, because this is a subject I have been thinking about a lot for my library.

Recently, I created a very basic mobile webpage for our library.  At the moment, it contains three main pieces of information:  library hours, contact information, and links to a (very) few databases with mobile interfaces.

In my search for databases to include on this list, I was surprised by the low number of vendors with such interfaces.  I also wondered exactly how users would use these mobile resources.

In addition, we have been paying attention to what is happening with Kindle eBook readers.  There seems to be a lot of debate about how/if libraries can lend these out or take advantage of the eBook market in anyway.

I am an avid reader of eBooks on my iPhone, through the Kindle reader for iPhone and now the new Barnes and Noble eBook reader.  So far, the Kindle reader is easier to use.

I’m looking forward to seeing what other libraries are doing with mobile devices to provide content and services.

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Why do I Twitter?

Everyone is talking about Twitter right now.  I thought I would talk about why I think using Twitter is useful to me as an undergraduate science librarian.

First, I can connect with colleagues.  While I have some amazing colleagues at my library, there are no other science librarians.  Using twitter I can engage in conversation with science librarians at far flung institutions to give and receive advice, assistance and support.

Second, it’s a great way to keep up with practicing scientists.  Even if the faculty I work with aren’t on twitter, I can get a good sense of what professors and researchers are doing.

Third, it is great way to find out about recent news from folks who are much more connected than I am.  I get pointed to great links and hear assessments of recent developments in the information world by people smarter than I am.  Folks provide commentary on the Google Book settlement, or about the now-defunct changes to OCLC policies.

And of course, it’s fun!  Sometimes you just want to tell the world what you had for breakfast.

Annual Reporting and the Importance of Librarian as Communicator

It’s annual report season at my institution, which forces me to think about what I’ve actually accomplished this year. It provides a great opportunity for me to re-examine the wonderful things that I’ve learned at the various conferences and workshops I have attended this year.

One of the most common themes I’ve encountered this year is the idea of the importance of the librarian as communicator:

  • Communicating with students about appropriate resources
  • Communicating with faculty about changing library policies and new resources
  • Communicating with administrations and governments about the role of the library at your institution
  • Facilitating communication with the public about science and scholarship

What strategies do we employ (or should we employ) to help us meet our various communication needs?

Traditional tools such as newsletters and posters aren’t as sexy as web 2.0 applications, but they remove the barrier to entry and reach a population that isn’t always wired.

Social media can help connect libraries to their users, but time and effort must be expended to reach the audience you are seeking. Social media can also become insular: librarians following other librarians on twitter, Facebook pages for a library whose only “friends” are other librarians. My library has a Flickr account and a Facebook page, but both are badly in need of updates. Do we jump in on twitter, too?  With a limited staff can we replicate the success of a colleague using twitter at a larger university?

Those tools can help you connect to and interact with users in a way that is impossible with the mass-mailed newsletter, but only when used appropriately.  This is something I am constantly working on.

Back to work

I have been on maternity leave for the past 2 1/2 months, and I am starting to get back into the swing of things.

Some of the projects currently on my list:

  • Revise our science and mathematics subject guides. They were neglected before I came on board as science librarian and are in need of a big overhaul
  • Weed the science reference collection (with my reference librarian colleagues)
  • Put together a presentation about information literacy in Chemistry for a small workshop
  • Analyze our print collection in the sciences, in case we have any money to buy more books next year
  • Working with biology faculty to develop some information literacy strategies for the first year biology lab
  • Miscellaneous web design projects, including a possible transfer of the library website to the Drupal CMS
  • Ongoing assessment of our information literacy program

So, what do I tackle first upon my return? The easy things: possible style sheet changes for our website to change the look of our links. Sometimes the best way to get started again is to do a few easy things before hitting the larger projects.

Oh, and I spent some time finding more science librarians to follow on Twitter, and editing my LinkedIn profile. That counts as work, right?