Friday, 5 June 2009

Mobile Hardware Trial Update

The mobile device trial in student support settings is well underway here at LJMU. The BOS is up, running and in-use as is the project wiki and it appears that the staff involved in the trial are trying hard to think of new and innovative ways in which the devices can be practically used in HE library settings. Many staff participants have been happy to explore the possibilities that specific apps (such as Fring) pose, even in their own time in some cases which really displays the interest and excitement these devices create. Furthermore it exposes the levels of realisation from current library staff here at LJMU with regards to the ways in which technology can help them in their day-to-day jobs and routine, as well as making the student experience of the library service more positive.

Unfortunately due to the time of year, student contact in roving contexts is sparse, however over the summer we have a large group of international students from Malaysia (who have just started to arrive over the last few days) so hopefully student enquiries will increase.

The devices have received mixed reviews so far. Generally speaking the notebooks and EEE PCs are the better option for in-depth search and retrieval queries as the directly simulate the steps which the students must go through on their laptop or desktop PC. The iPod Touches get a big ‘thumbs up’ for standard roving activities such as book searches with some staff members enthralled by the intuitive device design (some staff didn’t even need training, they just picked up the device, ‘played’ around with it and worked it out for themselves)! Personally speaking, this is a major compliment to the Apple design team! A major problem with the iPod Touches however (which is probably more to do with the design of the LJMU E-Library than the limitations of the device) is that users are unable to jump from the scroll down menu in which Faculty and subject discipline is chosen, to the scroll down menu which stipulates the databases relevant to the users subject area. This means that one of the LJMU E-Library elements is obsolete when using an iPod Touch. Although on a positive note, without having these devices ‘in-house’ our support desk staff would not have been in a position of knowledge when advising students who own such devices as iPod Touches or iPhones. Furthermore, now that we are aware of the limitation of our E-Library with regards to mobile access, decisions can be made on ways to address this.

On Wednesday, one of the EEE PCs took a trip down to London whilst one of the Research and Learners Support Officers took it to a conference. At 10am, a mobile posting appeared on the wiki, updated whilst travelling at high speed on a Virgin Pendolino train, indications show that the device is lightweight, compact and robust – ideal for transportation! This supports the case for more mobile Officers here at LJMU proving that the device capabilities will match the tasks required with library liaison activities delivered within the faculties and schools perhaps.

We are still awaiting the delivery of the eBeam, video camera and MP4 player – watch this space for further updates!!

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