Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Working On My Feet

Lately, I’ve had to give up on my beloved high heels, because I’m pounding the pavement too much at work.

Well, not literally. For the past four months, my library system has piloted mobile reference service in our main branch. Mobile reference is envisioned as a way to get librarians out in the library itself, rather than stationing them at a desk. In my library’s pilot project, seven librarians, myself included, spend three one-hour shifts a week performing mobile reference. We use ultra light mobile PCs and wireless communication badges to access library resources, ask other staff for assistance, and answer questions for patrons.

As we walk through the library, the computer we use certainly attracts attention. Patrons often stop us to ask what it is, and whether we get the Internet on it. They’re often surprised when we say that the mobile PCs are just as powerful as a desktop computer: the Samsung Q1 that we use measures 10” by 5.5” by 1”, and weighs less than two pounds. The communicator badges, from a company called Vocera, lets us talk to other staff members throughout the building. Maybe the best part, as I demonstrated for some kids recently, was what happens when you press the call button on the badge and say “Beam me up”: a series of beeps that calls to mind the Starship Enterprise.

While it’s been fun to play with all these gadgets, what’s really revolutionary is the way patron attitudes have started to change in our building. Now, any staff member might be stopped when they’re out on the floor, regardless of whether they’re assigned to the desk or to mobile reference at that time. Additionally, we’re helping patrons who might never come to the reference desk, especially those patrons who will wander around in the stacks for an hour before they ask for help. I’ve found that I feel much more aware of what’s going on in the library, since I’m walking around for three hours a week, rather than stationed at a desk. Plus, all that walking is helping my goal of getting in shape!

This pilot is still ongoing, but once it’s done, there will be more information distributed through library journals. In the meantime, feel free to email me with any questions you might have! But sorry--I'm holding onto my heels for the days when I'm not assigned to mobile reference.

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Mobile Devices

So I was going to post about something completely different when I saw this article. The gist of the article is that "Cyber University, [Japan]'s only university to offer all classes only on the Internet, began offering a class on mobile phones Wednesday on the mysteries of the pyramids."

How crazy is that? In this country you're starting to see a proliferation of online courses, programs, and degrees from larger institutions, not just places like the University of Phoenix or Devry. That is, places where you can earn liberal arts degrees, as opposed to technical or trade degrees are offering online coursework.

And now you can take a class on your ubiquitous mobile device. So what does your library offer for the mobile device? You could already tailor your library's web design for mobile devices through CSS. OK, so maybe that's a little ambitious for most of us.

What about the ILS providers? It would be great if they create a mobile version of your online catalog so that people could recheck a book's call number while they were out in the stacks.

Of course there's always text/SMS reference. There are a few places that have already started doing this, even as far back as 2005!

Or what about text messages/images sent to patrons about new items in the catalog or perhaps even existing catalog items that are relevant to current events? Places like ESPN already have dedicated mobile device content, why not a library?

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