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IFLA PAC The Challenges & Promise of Mobile Technology"


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“The Challenges & Promise of Mobile Technology” by Joe Murphy.
Originally published in - IFLA PAC. International Preservation News: A Newsletter of the IFLA Core Activity. No. 51 August 2010. Training in the Digital Age.

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IFLA PAC The Challenges & Promise of Mobile Technology"

  1. 1. The Challenges & Promise of Mobile Technology by Joe Murphy, Kline Science Library, Yale University The global reach of mobile has spread to libraries. The impact of sure our library users receive the benefits of the information mobile technology on information seeking behavior, interper- expertise that forms the bedrock of what librarians offer. This sonal communication, and patrons’ expectations for services is invaluable resources for helping library users grow as efficient starting to affect the way libraries are conceived of and imprint- and effective consumers and producers of information may ing itself upon the design and delivery of library operations. The take different shapes within the mobile transition but the fun- expanding focus on mobile technology is literally changing the damental nature and central role it plays remain the same. way libraries around the world do business. These new evolutions in mobile learning have enabled the expansion of the library as teacher into the mobile realm of The current trend of increased focus on mobile technology and training and e-learning. We will discuss these changes, their the spread/infiltration of these tools and resources are visible in context, some practical aspects, and future prospects of mobile the global statistics. The United Nations’ International Telecom- technology in libraries. munication Union predicts “the number of mobile cellular sub- scriptions globally to reach five billion in 2010” (http://www.itu. int/net/pressoffice/press_releases/2010/06.aspx). It is predicted that “Mobile Will Be Bigger than Desktop Internet in 5 Years” Mobile Literacy ( pdfs/Internet_Trends_041210.pdf). Twitter now has over 100 Mobile literacy is now an important skill for effective research- million users and boasts 15 billion posted tweets (http://mash- ers and informed citizens because the spread of mobile tech- nology now touches so much of the information cycle. I intro- pic/). Over 4 billion text messages are sent every day (http:// duced the concept of mobile literacy in a presentation at the 2010 Computers in Libraries con- view&newsId=2009100700620 ference ( 0&newsLang=en). More eBooks “The challenge and role for librarians in outlining a framework for how li- were sold on then this climate of change is to reinsert the brarians can approach this new set 16 print books for the first time on of skills. Mobile literacy is the ability Christmas 2009 (http://mashable. library experience in the form of librarian to effectively and critically engage No. 51 August 2010 com/2009/12/26/kindle-ebook- expertise into the mobile learning cycle.” with information encountered in or sales/). These represent a revolution acted upon through mobile tech- more than a trend. nology. It is important for librarians because we need to be able to expand our information skills into the mobile world of information and because the skills in- volved in accessing and manipulating information now so often Starting with a Mobile Framework includes mobile technologies. • International Preservation News I find it useful to approach mobile technology in three steps: The framework for mobile literacy that I have introduced in- gaining an understanding of the technologies and trends, be- cludes three key elements: understanding and valuing the im- coming familiar with the impact of these technologies upon the pact mobile technology has on libraries and upon information world of information and libraries, and combining the first two seeking behavior, being aware of the major mobile technolo- with our traditional librarian expertise to develop and shape gies affecting information engagement, and being able to de- services within the mobile context. sign and operate mobile library services. Mobile e-learning Becoming Familiar With the Technologies Recent evolutions in e-learning have begun to be shaped by the The most basic step of engaging mobile technology as librar- growing role of mobile technologies in instruction techniques ians is being aware of and familiar with the technologies. This and learning styles. Mobile natives are seeking mobile oppor- step though, deserves the least amount of attention from in- tunities for learning and expecting mobile components to in- formation professionals because it doesn’t represent a skill, but struction. With or without libraries, these mobile patrons are rather a level of experience and exposure. This step includes seeking and finding opportunities for learning environments being aware of the major mobile tools, resources, and gadgets enriched with mobile technology and familiar aspects of mo- that are important right now, as well as those emerging onto bile culture. the scene to make an impact in the near future. The challenge and role for librarians in this climate of change is to reinsert the library experience in the form of librarian ex- The mobile technology landscape is constantly changing, and pertise into the mobile learning cycle. In this way we can make at a faster and faster pace. It is our challenge and our strength
  2. 2. to stay vigilant about the contemporary technologies that are Understanding the Impact and Reach making waves and potentially impacting libraries right now. of Mobile Technologies on Libraries Some of the major mobile technologies that are heavily impact- ing information engagement this year are mobile applications More important than fluency with the individual technologies for smart phones, mobile-friendly web pages, Twitter, Face- themselves is understanding and valuing the trend and changes book’s mobile services, and mobile eReading devices. of the mobile revolution as a whole. I believe the focus for li- brarians should actually be on understanding the larger context Mobile applications for smart phones are small pieces of soft- of mobile technology as a cultural trend or a zeitgeist, and un- ware dedicated for a specific resource or function built by third derstanding its major concepts, components, and implications. parties that individuals can download onto their smart phones. The implications of the evolving mobile data sphere for librar- Text messaging, also known as SMS (short message service), is ies touches on so much more than tools and means of access the sending of brief text-based messages, less than 160 charac- primarily because the infiltration of mobile technologies into ters, between cell phones. It is one of the most popular forms more and more aspects of our lives has shifted our information of mobile communication around the world. Uses of SMS have expectations more heavily towards mobile. expanded beyond that of peer-to-peer communication into the worlds of current awareness, social networking, and even re- search. Learning, Training, and Growing As mobile phones become an increasingly popular mode of ac- cessing the Internet, web pages designed specifically for mobile It falls to us all as a community of professionals to train each devices are playing a larger role. Twitter, the hugely popular other in the areas of technology skills for new tools, cognitive mobile/social network based on short posts consisting of only skills for understanding new models, and affective skills to in- 140 characters sent/received with crease our valuing of these changes. mobile phones, a web page, or third New technologies can intimidate, “The other side of this is being aware party clients, is placing a heavy em- and new required skills can cause phasis on real time and concise com- of and ready for the major mobile tension but together we form a munication. Twitter is relied upon technologies that are now emerging strong co-learning community ca- heavily as a broadcast medium, but and are set to make their impact in pable of supporting the new and is also great for peer-to-peer inter- changing skills related to mobile action and information exchange. the near future. The technologies on technologies facing us librarians. eBooks have caught their stride with the horizon this year that have high the widespread adoption of mobile potential for taking center stage very The new skills that we are pressured eReaders including the Kindle, the to learn as librarians engaging mo- 17 iPad, the Nook, and smart phones soon will be location-based networks, bile technology cover everything No. 51 August 2010 amongst some of the top devices. QR Codes, and Augmented Reality.” from technical skills of to communi- cation norms and user expectations. The other side of this is being aware The technical skills may include ac- of and ready for the major mobile technologies that are now tions such as how to operate smart phones, how to send and emerging and are set to make their impact in the near future. respond to text messages, and how to search in mobile data- The technologies on the horizon this year that have high po- bases platforms. I covered much of these details in a recent tential for taking center stage very soon will be location-based article for Online. • networks, QR Codes, and Augmented Reality. Augmented re- International Preservation News ality is overlaying real world objects with a layer of digital in- Training to master these new skills can focus of gaining personal formation. Augmented reality tools like the Layar application experience to minimize the learning barriers and maximize the ( use smart phones to make visible and acceptance of the technologies. I find that by creating an open interactive electronic data about places and objects scanned environment wherein we can gain personal experience playing with the phone: making the mobile phone a discovery tool in with the technology and exploring its functions can be very conjunction with the real world. successful at opening our minds to learning the service skills. QR Codes are two-dimensional bardcodes containing custom- ized information that can be scanned with smart phones. They offer a method for plying smart phones a mobile bridge be- Lessons tween physical or print objects and digital information. The experience of implementing mobile technologies in librar- Location based services include social networking games like ies is often similar but never the same as with previous technol- Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, and MyTown. These emerging ogies. We face rapidly shifting patron expectations that change technologies allow for direct interaction with places or events as quick as the next gadget trend that must in essence drive so through mobile phones by using gaming and social networking much of what we do. We also face wide gaps in understand- to expand how we interact with information and each other. ings and expectations within our staff across generations and Coincidently, these are all part of the larger trend of enhancing experience. These challenges, these obstacles and opportuni- interaction with location, a trend we will see a lot more of. ties, are the points at which we can work together to achieve progress. Let’s leverage the tensions caused by internal expec- tations to maximize the experience for external progress.
  3. 3. Even if we cannot implement mobile services in our libraries, that will feature segments focus- we can adapt and make ourselves amenable to the mobile cul- ing solely on mobile technology and libraries. Also watch for a ture. We can accomplish this less lofty goal by reconceiving of special issue of the Reference Librarian devoted to articles based our existing services and resources from the perspective of a on presentations from the Handheld Librarian. Twitter is a fan- mobile user. For physical spaces we can facilitate the use of mo- tastic resource for staying connected with fellow professionals bile devices with additional power outlets and encouraging the interested in staying current on mobile technology. Network with use of location-based services. We can rethink our policies re- colleagues on Twitter and join the ongoing discussion. stricting cell phones from our libraries since they are now valid research tools, and instead focus on policies to guide behavior not tools. We can consider the recent changes in expectations for interpersonal behavior and be open to how mobile natives Our Mobile Futures may have different considerations for interpersonal behavior and communication with us directly through mobile devices or The future of libraries is change. Mobile technology is impact- in person but affected by their use of these devices. ing many aspects of our cultures, most especially in regards to information, reading, and scholarly communication. Libraries The possible methods and avenues are changing as well to keep pace libraries may pursue with mobile “We are putting our time-tested skills with these pressures. We are putting technology are nearly limitless. The our time-tested skills to use by rei- restrictions to the possible now in- to use by reimagining library services magining library services and collec- clude neither our imagination nor and collections for the mobile age tions for the mobile age on a global the technology itself. The methods on a global scale.” scale. The influences upon demand with which libraries have begun ex- for mobile access and communica- perimenting with the mobile tech- tion vary across geography, but the nology have, however, often been limited by the institutional trend itself ties us together as a obstacle we all face: budgets, creative freedom, and other bar- world-wide profession that is more closely connected thanks to riers to innovation. There are many real world challenges that and because of mobile technology. We are all now serving end we can navigate through. The most powerful tools at our dis- users with widely global connections amongst themselves and posal here are our ability to meld our traditional librarian skills with the information they are engaging. with our personal experience as mobile users and innovators skilled at change. Bright futures are possible for libraries in a world of mobile technology. But they are not guaranteed. It is up to us librarians to ensure that we are critical in embracing the changes needed 18 for adapting to these evolutions in expectations. This may re- Staying Current quire that we carefully decide, as individual libraries and as a No. 51 August 2010 profession, if we want to embrace change and stay relevant There is a growing body of research and discussion into and as the information sphere enters the world of mobile or if we about this theme of mobile technology and libraries. Whole con- want to maintain our previous roles and sustain our former suc- ferences have been devoted to it including the entirely online cess in a niche more heavily reflective of the past. Handheld Librarian conferences (http://www.handheldlibrarian. org), the m-Libraries conference (, Contact: and upcoming conferences such as Internet Librarian (http:// • Twitter: libraryfuture International Preservation News