Panlibus Blog

Archive for June, 2009

M-Libraries: Information use on the move

mlibrariesM-Libraries: Information use on the move is a report from Keren Mills of the Arcadia Programme based at Cambridge University Library. With an eye on developments in mobile technologies and increased adoption, there is concern to assess the requirements, avoiding the expenditure of considerable resources before there is a real need.

The analysis and recommendations of the report are rooted in a survey carried out by the Arcadia Programme, in which staff and students from Cambridge University and Open University were questioned about their use of mobile phones. In the survey, most respondents said that they currently use their phones primarily for phone calls, SMS and photos. Only a small number had read e-books or journal articles on their mobile phones – for example, 91.5% of Cambridge students have never read a journal article on their mobile phones, and there’s a similar (slightly higher) figure for reading eBooks.

These seem fairly predictable findings, but I don’t know whether it follows that:

These results suggest it is not worth libraries putting development resource into delivering content such as eBooks and e-journals to mobile devices at present.

I’m not sure whether that really stands up on its own. It would imply that development of technologies should be demand-driven, and I’m not sure whether that’s true.

The report refers to other successful developments such as the Athabasca University Library’s Digital Reading Room in Canada “which allows readers to access full eBooks and journal articles through their library’s subscriptions on any mobile device.” However the report dismisses the possibility of similar developments in the UK right now partly because of the low usage figures encountered in the survey.

The other reason for not going down the Athabasca Digital Reading Room route is that the technology to make mobile e-journal access possible without such purpose-built platforms is now just around the corner:

… the key difference between the iPhone and previous web browsing mobile phones is that the iPhone can comfortably access websites intended for larger screens. As this type of device becomes increasingly available it will no longer be necessary to develop mobile-ready websites. Several manufacturers have announced that they intend to release touch-screen phones similar to the iPhone in 2009.

The report makes the point over and over again that the iPhone is revolutionising the mobile phone market. For example, although extremely low numbers of respondents had accessed e-resources on their phone:

iPhone users are already more inclined to read eBooks on their phones, according to comments from the respondents to this survey.

The report also comments on the increased uptake of mobile phone applications since the launch of the iPhone (2009 findings from ComScore), although in its own survey only 21% of respondents had downloaded applications to their phones and would do so again.

Thus the report gives us a combined reason for hanging back from M-Library developments at this stage – demand isn’t strong and more suitable technology is imminent without the library world having to develop its own bespoke solution. I think this is a fairly rational position.

The problem that I do have is that the recommendations made are strikingly conservative. Text alerting services, text reference services, audio tours and mobile OPAC interface all seem to me to be excessively anchored down by the current library offering, rather than using shifts in use of mobile devices, accelerated by the iPhone, to re-imagine the library and its services. The following quotation is enough to make you feel that you’ve gone back in time to the print-only era:

… a significant portion of respondents currently use text alerting services in some form, and would be in favour of receiving text alerts from the library to let them know when reserved items are ready for collection, when books are due for renewal or are overdue.

I’m very sympathetic to Lorcan Dempsey’s take on the report: this is a rapidly changing area, and is very difficult to capture. It reminds me of all the years I’ve spent at Silverstone trying desperately to capture Formula One racing cars as they fly past me at 100+mph. Who knows how respondents will be describing their mobile phone habits in even 12 months time. But I do feel that even at this point in time we could be formulating a much more exciting vision of transformed library services that widespread take-up of smart phones might bring out.

Bournemouth University wins the THE Outstanding Library Team Award

bournemouth-university-library-2On Tuesday 9th June, Bournemouth University library was awarded the Times Higher Education (THE) Outstanding Library Team Award. After receiving the award in the evening at the London Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, the winners rushed back to Bournemouth to host SCONUL’s three day conference, which proved to be a second success for the team. During the conference, Chris Spencer, Bournemouth University’s Library Procurement Librarian, discussed with me the reasons for their success. As this announcement outlines, the library has led the way in its introduction of flexible learning spaces with innovative and popular features such as Techno Booths, illustrating Bournemouth’s strength of aligning education with technology. The library balances this focus on learning with a proven commitment to the research community, as the development of BURO, one of the UK’s largest online research repositories, demonstrates.
I was fortunate enough to get the chance to record a podcasting with three members of the library team to discuss their submission to the Outstanding Library Team Award, and it can be accessed here.

University for the Creative Arts talks with Talis about its Outstanding Library Team shortlisting

In this podcast, I talk with members of the library team of University for the Creative Arts, which has been shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Supplement Outstanding Library Team Award, 2009. The library team has worked tirelessly to meet the challenges and maximise the benefits of the 2005 merger of Kent Institute of Art & Design and Surrey Institute of Art & Design University College, from which staff have emerged feeling confident about their roles for the future. The discussion explores the immense progress that has been made in developing a unified library service from a number of angles. More broadly, the podcast offers a rich picture of an effective library team, within a highly coherent institution, that has solid relationships and feedback mechanisms in place to ensure that the library maintains its relevance to all its stakeholders.

The Library 2.0 Gang – the vendors view on OCLC Web-scale

On the Library 2.0 Gang back in May we discussed Cloud Computing, an architecture in which you use your web browser to access your services on computers hosted by your system provider. 

Unlike traditional hosting, where you would expect to identify which system is running your application, cloud services appear as one big application servicing everyone’s needs spread across many computers and often data centres spread around the Internet.  The conversation last month was prompted by OCLC’s announcement they are developing such a service for delivering library services such as circulation, acquisitions, and license management.  The introduction of library services from the cloud, in a market where the vast majority of libraries host their own systems, could be potentially game changing and we speculated on what the reaction of the current suppliers would be.

In an attempt to answer some of that speculation I brought together a gang for the June show consisting of representatives of some of those suppliers – Carl Grant from Ex Libris, Nicole Engard from LibLime who support the Open Source system Koha, and Rob Styles from Talis.  We were joined by a new guest to the show Boris Zetterlund from Scandinavian and now UK supplier Axiell.

Technical issues, potential costs, applicability for smaller libraries, and openness of data & APIs all got an airing in this interesting conversation – have a listen.

University of Sheffield library talks with Talis about its Outstanding Library Team shortlisting

In this podcast, I talk with Martin Lewis, Director of Library Services and University Librarian at the University of Sheffield. We talk about the shortlisting of his team for the Times Higher Education Supplement Outstanding Library Team Award, 2009. Martin describes features of Information Commons (see photo) that have proven particularly popular in the university since its opening two years ago, and we go on to look at developments and plans in place to build on this success. We also discuss the importance of responding actively to feedback from students and working closely with academics. This ensures that the library service meets the evolving needs of University of Sheffield’s two core businesses – learning and teaching on the one hand, and research on the other – and staff within this outstanding library team develop and grow in this dynamic environment.

Thomson Reuters – Zotero Case Dismissed

As I reported back in September last year Thompson Reuters sued George Mason University  to prevent the distribution of the excellent Firefox plugin, Zotero.

Well good news, as Sean Takats reports on his Quintessence of Ham blog, the Fairfax Circuit Court dismissed the lawsuit.

As co-director of the Zotero project along with Dan Cohen, I look forward to witnessing the Zotero team now devote its full attention to crafting the pathbreaking new features that are immediately on the development horizon: customized research recommendations, innovative annotation tools, and pioneering collaborative functionality.

Great new for the team, onwards and upwards.

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Bournemouth University library talks with Talis about its Outstanding Library Team shortlisting

In this podcast, I talk with members of the library team of Bournemouth University, which has been shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Supplement Outstanding Library Team Award, 2009. We look behind some of the innovations of this library service, such as the Techno Booths (see photo) which have proven so popular across the university. We discuss how Bournemouth University library‘s impressive operational efficiencies have been achieved. And we also explore the thinking behind Bournemouth University library’s success. It’s striking, for example, how the library staff are constantly reaching outward, developing strong relationships and partnerships beyond the library walls, and indeed, beyond the university itself in some cases. Underpinning all this of course is the importance of team work. This is, after all, the award for an outstanding library team. It’s appropriate therefore, that I be joined by not one but three members of the library team, namely:
David Ball – University Librarian
Chris Spencer – Library Procurement Librarian
Jill Beard – Deputy University Librarian