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Internet Librarian 2011: Developing a Mobile Presence: Mobile Web, Usability, and Devices

Esben Fjord, Nate Hill, and Joel Shields

Esben Fjord works at the Gladsaxe Public Libraries, a suburb of Copenhagen with a population of 64,000 people.  Their annual budget is $8.5 million (uhh, wowsers).  They use $1.2 for materials and have 110 employees, 1 main library, and 4 branches.  They had money to spend, and did a project with iPad 2s.  Esben set up workshops with some of the staff and brainstormed on what to do with the devices.  The idea was that the best people to figure out ways to use them were the staff that has the daily contact with users.  They wanted to use the iPads as a facilitator for interaction in the library’s physical space.  They wanted to train patrons on how to use them too, and basically brand themselves as a tech-savvy library.  The music librarian was interested in using the iPads as a way to work with sounds and music.  He put different music apps on the iPads and worked with the patrons on them.  Another librarian with a book club found info on authors (e.g. Jane Austen) to share with the club members.  So they gave the members of the club iPads. (Sarah’s note: Holy god. I wish I had money to buy our library staff one iPad, much less buy them for our book club members!).  A third project involved news on the iPad – news-related apps that patrons could borrow.  They are having an Angry Bird tournament at the children’s library – already 50 kids signed up.  They’re also lending iPads to patrons and having them video-record themselves doing book reviews.  They’re also having workshops where users exchange info on what they use their iPads for.  They didn’t want to have long chains on the iPads, so they just check them out as ordinary material…they put a chip in every iPad (RFID).

Nate Hill (NATE!!!) talked about San Jose Public Library’s Scan Jose (mobile augmented reality walking tours).  This was a project that I actually wrote the grant for waaaaaay back when I worked at SJPL to make walking tours with our local historic photos.  I was so sad I left before the project was completed L  Nate noted the discrepancy between big ideal plans for usability testing vs. the reality you experience when trying to crank out a project.  He showed screenshots from the tours (they are pretty amazing). They use the Google GeoLocation API to detect where you are and give you walking directions.  The content was also injected as a Layar in the Layar augmented reality app (coolio).  Nate says “Here’s the deal: Do as I say, not as I’ve done.”  Yup.  The technology for this is a moving target, and it’s storytelling.  Nate was also learning the tech on the fly and dealing with staff changes (e.g. me leaving & other staff moving around too – sorry!).  The content is really all about communication with our users.  One tip/trick for others doing mobile web development is that if you use one of these platforms like jquery mobile, it helps make a lot of decision for you – size of buttons, etc. are already recommended so you don’t have to figure it out.  Nate did a lot of storyboarding for interaction prototyping.  You need to think about where your users are – are they trying to use this in the car? Walking? Running?  Give yourself some structure and tell the story…  Give yourself six or eight boxes, and be strict with yourself about putting the experience into that limited space.

Joel Shields (Washington Research Library Consortium) talked about his experiences trying his library’s website on mobile and being crazy frustrated.  He came up with a wish list of what he’d like to have on his library’s homepage – the library catalog, library account information, locations, hours, and it had to look decent.  His development mantra was “get up and go.”  App vs. mobile website?  He decided (and rightly so) on mobile website (cross platform, baby!).  He built his mobile site on LAMP.  He used iWebkit to download a full template of pages that look fantastic.  Download it to a DropBox account and save it to a public folder, and you have a website ready to go (that’s a cool idea!).  How to get the catalog to work on mobile?  They were using Aquabrowser.  He showed us a live demo of their mobile site and it was indeed very, very pretty and quite functional.  Text messaging integration, contact the librarian, e-document-delivery, etc.  They have a checked out items calendar – which integrates with your calendar app and puts your due dates on the calendar.  That’s neat-o.  They pull in book images from LibraryThing. He emphasized the importance of beta testing with an investment in the technology working and an interest in improving the product.  Do a media blitz to let people know about what you developed.  Posters, banner ads on the website/catalog, etc.  Track your statistics and usage (Google Analytics) to prove that it’s actually being used.

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