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Taking the Library with You: VR Going Mobile

Reporting from Taking the Library With You: VR Going Mobile (the session will also be virtual on 7/7!). This started out on Twitter, but moved to the blog when Twitter went belly-up at the beginning of the session.

Moderator: Dr. Marie Radford from Rutgers University

Pam Sessoms from University of North Carolina / LibraryH3lp
Cathy Sanford from Contra Costa Libraries
Mary Carol Lindbloom from South Central Library Council /

Each panelist provided a brief introduction, then Dr. Radford posed questions to the panel, and lastly the panel and moderator took questions from the audience. These are quick notes from the session to get them up quickly:

Sessoms: focusing on LibraryH3lp mobile. UNC using it on their mobile web page. Java/HTML/CSS. Light–More text than mobile

Sessoms: For SMS service,began with AOL hack–little traffic. Switched to Google voice going through LibraryH3lp.Slightly fragile

Sessoms: Not many in-depth reference from mobile reference interface. Librarians can tell that it is mobile from an avatar.

Sessoms: Librarians can be mobile or at desktop to answer SMS/Mobile/Chat. LibraryH3lp allows all to be transferred to queues.

Sanford: LibGudies, LibAnswers, SMS plus the rest. Staff multi-tasking while answering questions.

Sanford: Answer-me_this is favorite tool. Users automatically redirected to potential matches. Available when libraries aren’t open. Knowledge database for staff.

Sanford: Answer-me-this for reference, reading recommendations, public can be involved. Pre-scripted responses mean quicker to answer all questions.

Sanford: Their philosophy is that everything you can do in the building, they want you to be able to do online.

Lindbloom: June 17 PewInternet Guide to Teens, Young Adults, Mobile Phones and Social Media—must read.

Lindbloom: Cell phones decreasing digital divide by allowing all to have access to the web. J

Lindbloom: Reasons for chat reference are the same reason to look at chat reference. Libraries have # for users with three letter codes for each library. Nationwide with 70 libraries. Goal is 24/7. Now open 80 hrs/week for the summer.

Lindbloom: For VR Collaborative 10k-12k questions/yr. For SMS 7k/yr text reference request in that consortium. Goal is response time <10minutes. Lindbloom: Each library donates 2hrs/wk. Trouble with people not showing up for shifts. Usser/advisory meetings & training session. Using Altarama software, filtered into Gmail acct. Lindbloom: for patrons. Hidden part of site holds PR, swapping desk shifts. Marketing to librarians and library users. “Txt 4 Answers” is the tagline they have evolved. Lindbloom: Find them on Facebook, Twitter. Project evaluation is ongoing. Just got IMLS grant to carry the project through another year. Testing out Text a Librarian, Gmail, 511, Altarama in July. Radford: QR = Quick Response codes you can aim a camera at and download information into the smartphone. Radford ?: What do you think are currently the 1-2 most important virtual apps for providing virtual services? What would you like to see in terms of apps in the next few years: Sessoms: Not a big proponents of apps for VR because they have to exist across platforms. Jabber apps to monitor IM can be used on the go—roaming reference models. HTML5 is going to be the big thing. Get electronic reference in mobile friendly formats will be important. As questions become more challenging, better e-books will be great. Sanford: Focused on library-service. Wants the outcome to be good for the patrons. Feels that QR codes will be useful in the future. Video chat will make a difference for VR—we will be F2F again. Lindbloom: Challenging to monitor questions through mobile device—would like those options to improve. QP quidgets could improve. QR have been around since 1994 for manufacturing applications. Create augmented reality walking tour with QR codes. Get up to a page of information from the code (4000 characters). Radford: QR/Augmented Reality = hyperlocal. Students took pic of call number on the screen from reference desk to carry with me to the desk. Also text-me-this-call-number. Circ stats have bounced in one library with this in their catalog. Students coming to the reference desk with call number on the phone. Marketing in SMS in elevators. Radford: How are you marketing your mobile VR services? Sanford: Be careful with branding. Go where your customers are—identify those places. Embed widget when they have a no result found that automatically opens IM widget. Find where they get stumped and market there. QR codes get library into the community virally. Sessoms: Traffic is slow at the beginning of new tech. People have to come to rely on them. Getting them mentioned in instruction sessions. Busier services seem to be in more urban environments (anecdotal). NYU has a busy texting services. Lindbloom: In 60-70 communities—half academic, half public--each marketing differently. Website has posters and suggestions. Start of the semester checklist for academic. One library has students working on a video to advertise SMS service. 6x3ft banner idea for parades, hang in the library. Door hangers, posters, lots of ideas on website. Barriers for success can be geography, hours available. Should mirror reference 24/7. Students using VR up until 1-2am. Radford: Perhaps texting is still being used for social interactions, and not “business” interactions. That may change over time with marketing, etc. Barrier is getting the word out—letting people know it exists. Most effective marketing is viral—recommended by friends or trusted people (librarians, teachers, faculty)…need to market to librarians as well as users. Library Instruction sessions are very important—demo it. Have students take out the cell and put the library’s number in their contacts. Radford: Worried about being overwhelmed? It hasn’t happened yet. Loves the banner idea—hang a banner in front of the library that says “Free WiFi” Radford: Social change with current devices or will it take more technology to affect change? Lindbloom: It comes down to broadband. Broadband initiatives are critical—still a lot of dumb phones out there. They will be replaced over time (like color TVs). Sessoms: We are all still trying to figure out how to serve our patrons. We are all still putting ourselves out there, trying to experiment, take risks and see what works. It will work itself out as the technology matures. Sanford: We need to be paying attention to change as it happens. Radford: Things are moving so rapidly, it’s important to keep on top of societal shifts. ACRL 2025 report. Maybe no traditional students due to rising costs, etc. Globalization of privatization. Maybe for profit universities are taking most profitable undergraduate programs. Radford: New term “tree books” vs “e-books”—but still have to take into account energy produced in manufacturing e-books (actual higher energy cost than tree-books). Anywhere/anytime societal change. Modern office building structured around the paper. J Radford: In your experience how does the traffic coming from mobile VR users differ from that coming from other VR channels? Sessoms: Fewer hardcore research questions coming through SMS or mobile widget. More “nitty gritty” things, like book availability, study room availability, hours. They are on the go, trying to figure out if they want to stop in. Do get the occasional research question, but not as much as in traditional IM/Chat. Lindbloom: Questions are not as indepth in general for SMS: directional, “stump the librarian” questions. Treat every question with respect (future tax payers). Trying to establishing whether or not there is a real person behind the service with frivolous questions. For academics—let everyone know (admissions, etc.) know you are providing this service. Sanford: Mostly ready reference. Want the questions from the bar. Radford: Questions may seem frivolous, but users can sometimes value them differently. May be really important to that person. Treat the patrons with respect and they will come back. If they aren’t treated well, they will remember forever. Only takes two characters to type “hi” Radford: They are chatting, IM’ing and texting the same question. Why? Cry for help—which method will be the most responsive. Who’s going to be nice to me? Where will I get the best information? We need to answer with as much compassion as possible. Do people need to put software on their phones for QR Codes? Yes, you do have to have an app that is a barcode scanner to downloaded for your phone. Sanford is recommending particular QR Code reader. C Do you use a push document on VR? Sessoms: LibraryH3lp does. Does not happen all the time, but very convenient. E.g. If patron can’t get the document, can send pdf of articles. Send scan of style guide. Lindbloom: do not push documents with SMS. What happens if you cannot answer a question, what do you do? Sessoms: We never say no. There has to be someone who knows more. “Let me get back to you” Tries to get email for follow-up. Lindbloom: There is no such thing as a question you can’t answer. Radford: Refer people to subject expert rather than giving a half-assed answer. But ask if it’s okay to do the follow-up referral. Sanford: LibGuides are owned by subject specialists so patrons have access. Sessoms: Notion of wanting a good answer really important in usability studies—on subject pages give them directly to a subject experts. If a library wants to start a VR reference but only has funds and staff to do one thing—what should they do? Lindbloom: Join Infoquest Sessoms: Start Meebo for free: IM, widget, etc. Smartphones are expensive. Do you offer smartphones for librarians to train? Sanford: No. Tech savvy staff. Lindbloom: Users are coming to the library with multiple devices and wanting to know what content the library has for each. We need to know what we have that works on what platform. New pathfinders. Sessoms: They do have iPod Touches for staff to learn what it’s like to use the mobile browser. Radford: Librarians aren’t accessing questions from a smartphone, but on the dashboard on their computer. How does the collaborative reference work with your database providers, copyright, etc.? Lindbloom: Comes up with collaborative reference. They have a sense of what the other libraries subscribed to in terms of databases (not as detailed as questionpoint). Leave it up to each library. It’s a grey area. Maybe less reference in text reference because there is less depth to the information needed for things like definitions. Sanford: Talk to vendors in advance about anything they are doing and ask them about limitations. Most have said none. Do not want them to impede a sale, but beyond that, nothing. Sessoms: In North Carolina they have a state-wide pool of resources to draw from, which includes the major databases. Judicial fair use. Speaker on Saturday discussed making videos about how to use the catalog and then email them. Is that possible with SMS? Sessoms: That could be done easily through Jing and then shorten the link with That could be great. Sanford: We would like to incorporate that into LibAnswers. We don’t want them getting a no response and nowhere to go. Lindbloom: Using Jing for other things…thinks it’s a great idea. How much traffic do you get through facebook or other social media? Sessoms: Very little chat traffic on Facebook. Some of the best results has been for looking at renovation in progress or special collections blogs. Sanford: Not a lot of chat through FB. Use facebook to recommend books, when they will get comments in response. A different level of virtual reference. Lindbloom: Not seeing traffic through FB. Eastern Illinois has been getting VR questions through FB. App on FB pushing to Questionpoint. Can you post hours with Meebo? What are the core hours to be available? Sessoms: With Meebo the widget will show whether you are online or offline. You post your hours on your webpage. You can have your widget disappear when you are not online. Spikes in the afternoon, lull at dinner, then peaks again in the evening. Radford: Peak hours correspond to in-house traffic. When you are busy f2f you will also be busy online. I wish I was married to my programmer. Do you know of a client for blackberry on the library end? Sessoms: Yes, any Jabber client. When you had embedded a widget in your online catalog for null result, what happens when people are offline? Sanford: Goes to email Do you use shorthand for SMS reference? Do you excuse poor grammar? Sessoms: Use the lingo if the patron uses it first. Radford: Mirror patron behavior. Have any panelists fielded geneology questions through VR? Any suggestions about how to make it satisfying for the patron? Lindbloom: Direct them to the library. Text ref is a segue into library services. It establishes a relationship with the library user. Sanford: Sends to subject guide on LibGuides. Sessoms: Refer questions to state library or North Carolina collection. Pam mentioned all these iterations of software. What do all the changes in software do to marketing? Sessoms: Opaque to patrons. Librarians have had more difficulties To reach patrons, use patrons using local media, youtube, etc. We just ask for phone numbers if the text is too complicated.

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