Monday, 29 June 2009

M-Libraries 2009 - The Concurrent Sessions (Day 1)

The concurrent sessions at m-Libraries this year were split into 6 streams:

*Mobile Technologies
*New Mobile Services
*Mobile Libraries for Learning
*Mobile Users
*Mobile Technologies Supporting Development
*Mobile Services For Distance Learners

I attended 3 sessions within the mobile users bracket, 2 sessions within the mobile services for distance learners bracket, 1 session within the mobile libraries for learning bracket (in which I also presented my own paper in this stream) and the final session I attended was in the mobile technologies stream.

The concurrent sessions were diverse in subject matter – from roving reference with iPods in America to changing m-learning models in Spain – everyone that presented was passionate about their ‘mobile’ area.

I have identified a few key sessions from each of the conference days…

Day 1

Faye Jackson and Phil Cheeseman from Roehampton University, UK
One of the most unique sessions I attended was that presented by Faye Jackson and Phil Cheeseman from Roehampton University, UK who presented on a social learning space for faculty staff called the Green Room. This was the first time I’d heard of a university library providing a social space for ‘staff only’ in order that faculty staff can engage and experiment with educational and mobile technologies. Furthermore it allows faculty staff members to share ideas about how best to use such devices in academic arenas (over a cup of coffee in relaxing, chilled surroundings of course…!)

A key aspect of the sustainability of such a space is that the library initially ‘buys in’ specific technologies for staff to experiment with and trial, then, if the faculty staff see its educational value, they ask their faculty to buy in their own batch of useful devices rather than having to use the libraries. Furthermore, the success of the Green Room is as a result of faculty staff recognising the value of mobile technologies from their colleagues, which is more than the library staff could engender if they tried to run the Green Room as a direct service solely from library staff to faculty staff. The unique aspect of collaboration and sharing amongst faculties colleagues resonates well with this group of people.

Of note, the Roehampton team turned to the university learners of tomorrow (school children) to discover the ‘ideal’ learning space…this quote from one imaginative young soul is definitely worth a mention…

“We’ve got the MyPod, it’s like your bed, you fall asleep in it and in your sleep learning flows into your brain and its only £15,000,000!!”

I really enjoyed Faye and Phil’s session and genuinely feel such a venture would definitely be worth considering at LJMU, either instigated here within L&SS, or maybe even by the LDU…??

Fred Rowland and Adam Shambaugh from Temple University, USA
Perhaps most pertinent to my work at present was the session delivered by Fred Rowland and Adam Shambaugh from Temple University, USA who presented on their roving reference initiative. The results of a LibQual survey were a driver for this trial project which registered that there was a distinct dissatisfaction amongst their student body with regards to the library service provisions, furthermore changing user needs and expectations needed to be addressed. At Temple, the student shelver’s were asked thousands of questions a month and it was felt that such questions would be better answered by professional librarian. The guys at Temple had a set timetable for roving (4 hours per day, Tues-Thurs) which followed a specified route and would be facilitated by an iPod Touch device. Unfortunately the trial period produced extremely low statistics, and Fred and Adam made some very broad claims about how students don’t like being approached and that out on the library floor was a student occupied territory, they highlighted that very little browsing was evident and that the use of the library space very directed and intentional. I would have to say that I disagree with the fact that students do not like being approached, having roved here at LJMU I can honestly say that students really appreciate library help at their point-of-need, especially during assignment deadline and exam times, the key is to recognising which students need your help and which do not. I feel that it was maybe a lack of roving training in identifying tell-tale signs of puzzlement and readjusting your body language to show the students you are available to be approached without being overbearing…

I got the distinct impression that the guys at Temple viewed their trial period as a bit of a failure which is a shame as I have seen first hand here at LJMU how effective roving can be if it is done correctly.


  1. Thanks for sharing Vicki, both sound like really interesting presentations.

    The Green Room sounds a little like the Digilab at the Open University, which I visited a while ago and absolutely loved. It's great that libraries are encouraging use of different pedagogic methods and new technologies to explore, as well as getting academic staff into the library. I think it's important for the academic library to support staff as well as students.

    I agree with the points you make on the roving, it's a shame they view this as a failure as it's obvious from the number of questions the students shelvers were getting that there are students who would appreciate help at the point of need. You make an interesting point about staff training; I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed before making assumptions on the success of roving. Did you have staff training for roving at LJMU?

  2. Hi Jo,

    When roving was introduced at LJMU it was just before I started so didn't experience the initial training, however, I do believe that the Principal Information Officer (Operations)and the Senior Information Assistants were very pro-active in showing the assistants the 'tools of the trade' as it were. My roving training came in the form of shadowing assistants that were already fully-feldged 'rovers' so I learnt on the job. I must admit, for me personally, I am a 'people person' so didn't really need much training.

    Over the last 2 years since roving has been in place, assistants are continually offered support if they are unsure with roving, being given the opportunity to 'buddy-up' with a Senior Information Assistant until they feel competent and comfortable. This would help them to adjust their body language but to also read the students. Key roving tasks are reviewed systematically also, with input from the assistant rovers as to what works and what does not.

    I think with any new/different venture, there will always be staff reluctance, there will be staff that embrace the change and those that perhaps feel threatened by it. I would have to say that the strong leadership and support of roving by the Principal Information Officer (Operations) has greatly helped its success here at LJMU.

  3. Hey, Vicki, thanks for the comments. I understand that the claims we made sounded very general but I was really speaking for our particular situation, not any other library. Glad you've had success at LJMU. Perhaps a bit more training would have helped, though I doubt it. Fred