Handheld Librarian 3 Wrap-up

4 Aug

As I mentioned last week, I attended the Handheld Librarian 3 online conference last Wednesday and Thursday. There were so many interesting and thought-provoking sessions that I am not going to do a full recap of my experiences, since that would be a very long post. Instead, I just want to talk about what I thought were some of the highlights of the conference.

I thought there was a good mix of discussion about general mobile trends and details of implementation. For example, Chad Mairn and Joe Murphy‘s keynote on “Creating the Future of Mobile Library Services” gave some good ideas about overall trends and where mobile device usage may be heading, and how librarians can keep up with these changes, while the first Lightening Rounds session immediately following provided specific examples of how libraries can create mobile websites or library apps. One of my favorite observations from that opening keynote was Chad Mairn (quoting Barbara Ballard) reminding us that “mobile” refers to the user, not the device. I think this is an important point since it is so easy to get caught up in the shiny new tech, and we need to remember the user behind the device and what they might need from the library’s mobile services. I also liked Joe Murphy’s point about how important it is to create community engagement with mobile services. Rather than just pushing content at library patrons, we need to use  mobile tools to allow them to participate in something.

Another highlight of the conference for me was Sarah Houghton-Jan‘s presentation on augmented reality (AR). She described AR as reality with a layer on top – so instead of an entirely virtual world, the user is interacting with the real, physical world, just with a layer of digital data superimposed on top. I liked how she started out with what AR is, gave some examples of how it’s being used for games and smartphone apps, and then narrowed it down to how it can be used by libraries and how it is going to be used specifically by the San Jose Public Library, who just got a grant to develop AR local history walking tours. What a great way to get exposure for some of the great local history image and text resources that are available in many public libraries! I also learned about some interesting existing AR tools including Layar, a smartphone app that displays digital information over images viewed through your phone’s camera, and Google Goggles, an android app that gives you information about  objects in front of you when you take a picture. Layar would be one way of creating a local history tour like the one planned by SJPL, and something similar to Google Goggles would be an interesting idea for a library app – take a picture of a book and get info from the library catalog or databases. I appreciated that Sarah talked about some of the privacy concerns that arise with increased openness and sharing of data and the question of how secure the collected data is and who has access to it. I think augmented reality sounds really cool for information about objects and places, but not so much for people.

Finally, I really enjoyed the Pecha Kucha session at the end of the conference. Pecha Kucha is a kind of presentation challenge that arose in Japan in which each presenter gives a talk based on 20 slides, each slide shown for only 20 seconds. This gives each person only 6 minutes and 40 seconds for their presentation. I was really impressed by how much information each presenter got across in only 20 seconds per slide! These were really good presentations. For this conference, they made it into a competition because they wanted to create a podcast with the winner. Bohyun Kim presented on planning a library mobile website (slides available here). Lots of great advice packed into that presentation. Matthew Hamilton spoke about “Branding for Mobile Success,” with examples of ways to get your library brand out in the mobile marketplace. My favorite example was Orange County (Florida) Library System’s “ShakeIt!” library app for book recommendations. The last speakers were Anne Peters and Heather Williams from the University of Texas at San Antonio, who spoke about a specific example of branding for mobile services at their library, a promotional video for their mobile search tool, Summon. All of these presentations were interesting and informative. What could have been kind of a gimmicky session turned out to be one of the most interesting ones I attended. It was really hard to choose one presentation to vote for! Matthew Hamilton ended up as the “winner” and hopefully that podcast will be available soon.

I really enjoyed the Handheld Librarian conference and I’m really glad I had a chance to attend thanks to the free registration deal as a SJSU SLIS alumna. I hope I will be able to attend the next one, and I highly recommend this conference for those interested in the latest trends and innovations in mobile library services.

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