or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Upcoming Workshop: Mobilize Your Patrons

   April 26th, 2011 Brian Herzog

NELA: New England Library AssociationEvery spring, the IT Section of the New England Library Association hosts a workshop on some aspect of technology in libraries (past workshops rocked). I'm actually one of the presenters at this year's workshop, along with far more interesting people, and the topic is:

Mobilize Your Patrons: Library Services in a Hand-Held World

2011 ITS Spring Event
New England Library Association - Information Technology Section

When Friday, June 17, 2011, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm

Where Tower Hill Botanic Garden, 11 French Drive, Boylston MA 01505 (directions)

Registration (includes lunch!)

  • NELA members - $50
  • Non-members - $65
  • Library school students & unemployed librarians - $35

Registration closes Friday June 3th. Space is limited.

Agenda

9:00 AM Registration

9:30 AM Keynote - Megan K. Fox, the Director of Knowledge Management and IT, Jobs for the Future

Libraries on the Go: Trends in Mobile Tools and Applications
Current hardware and new technologies are making hand-held computers essential for on-the-go users. Fox highlights the latest development in applications for mobile and hand-held tools and how these can and are being utilized by libraries and information seekers of all kinds.

11:15 AM - Jessamyn West, a technologist living in rural Vermont studying the digital divide and solving technology problems for schools and libraries

The Mayor of Everywhere Using Social Tools to be More Places at Once
Web 2.0 tools are uncomplicated to use and freely available online, and they have been making it easy and even enjoyable to remix, share, and repurpose content. The added new dimension of ubiquitous mobile computing is providing more opportunities for libraries to reach patrons and for patrons to interact with librarians. This presentation will address trends in Web 2.0 and social technology.

12:30 PM Lunch (included in registration)

1:30 PM – 3:30 PM Panel presentation/discussion on practical library applications

  • Brian Herzog: Making your Library Mobile-Friendly
    Tools and techniques to create a useful resource for your mobile patrons
  • Bonnie Roalsen & Ryan Livergood: Talking Walls & Augmented Realities
    Using QR codes to extend your library’s services and programs, engage your communities and construct mobile knowledge networks
  • Christine Drew: Enabling Mobile Academic Library Users
    Accessing student’s technology-use, deploying a mobile site, dabbling with QR codes

3:30 PM The End

It should be a great day. For my part, I'm basically going to go through the steps I took to make a mobile site for my library, and also mention a few other mobile options for libraries.

Whether you're considering maybe possibly thinking about doing something in the mobile world, or looking for new ways to interact with the mobile patrons you're already serving, there should be something for everyone at this workshop - I hope to see you there.



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Scanning Library Cards on Smartphones

   February 8th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Scanning library card barcode from smartphoneSomething I really like about smartphones are apps like CardStar and Key Ring - they let you input the numbers from all the club and rewards cards from your keychain and display the barcode on your phone.

Patrons also use these apps for their library card numbers, and some libraries aren't sure how to handle the library-card-on-smartphone situation. It hasn't really come up in my library, but I know our traditional scanners won't read barcodes off a smartphone screen. So, I thought I'd do some research to find out what it would take to accommodate these patrons.

The reason it doesn't work is because traditional barcode scanners are designed to read laser light reflected off a solid surface. Smartphone screens are emitting light, so an entirely different technology is needed.

The scanners that can read barcodes on smartphones are called CCD scanners (what that stands for is less important than a short description or a compare/contrast between CCD and traditional laser scanners).

After learning this, I started looking around at the different models and costs of CCD scanners. I stumbled across a Quora post mentioning a company called FaceCash* which sells scanners for $30. That's cheap enough for experimentation, so I contacted Aaron Greenspan (FaceCash founder) and bought one.

And it worked. I plugged it into a computer's USB port, held it up to an iPhone with a library card displayed on it, and Beep, the scanner read it just like it should. I'm always shocked when tech things work right out of the box. And happily, the scanner also reads** regular barcodes too.

So now, for just $30, my library can accommodate those patrons who make their lives easier*** through mobile technology.

Recent studies show this is fast becoming the standard in the business world - especially airlines. So the only question is whether or not libraries are willing to honor "virtual" library cards.

I don't see why not. It doesn't seem like fraud would be any more of an issue with this than with regular library cards. When we sign up a patron for a new library card, we give them a wallet card and a keychain card - so already there is more than one copy of the card in existence, which means more than one person could be using it. Since we don't make people show a picture ID when they present their library card, people could already be using someone else's card and we'd never know. Besides, if it's good enough for the TSA and airline security, I think we can manage.

But best of all, accepting these means that it's easier for patrons to bring their library card with them to the library. This is both better customer service and will save staff time in not having to look patrons up. Now that I have this scanner, I just have to wait for a patron to come in who needs it - what a strange feeling to be ahead of the curve.

 


FaceCash - Pay with Your Face*FaceCash is a new way to pay for things - you add money to your FaceCash account, and install the FaceCash app on your phone. Then when you're in a store or restaurant that accepts FaceCash, the app displays your account barcode for the business to scan, and also a picture of your face, so the clerk can verify that you are actually you. With more and more personal data being stored in phones, the visual verification is a great idea. If my library charged fines, I'd want to sign up us to accept FaceCash.

**One limitation of CCD scanners is their short range - just a couple inches, compared to 8-10" range of traditional scanners. Plus, the scanner I bought is trigger-operated, rather than motion-operated like our existing scanners. So, even though it can read both physical and digital barcodes, I don't think we'll swap out what we've got for it, but instead just plug it in and use it when a smartphone patron comes to the desk.

***I like just about anything that reduces waste and clutter. These apps let you store useful information easily, instead of lugging around a whole deck of various cards, and that makes life better. Read a few more tips to simplify your wallet, so you don't end up like George:
George Costanza and his wallet



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