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Mobile Technology in the Library

I found the module on Mobile Devices & Connections to be particularly interesting because I have been thinking a lot about how mobile technology can be implemented in an academic library setting for my planning assignment. What really stands out to me as the key for mobile technology is a phrase that Michael Stephens applies to the hyperlinked library more generally, “Serving the user when and where they are” (2015). This fundamental premise speaks to not only the growing pervasiveness of smartphones, but also the need to constantly be on the lookout for the most effective way to engage users.

In her article for the Pew Research Center (2019), Laura Silver notes the rapid increase in smartphone ownership around the world. Importantly, however, this increase is not taking place at the same rate around the world. Being from the United States and having the privilege of owning a smartphone since my third year of college makes it easy to forget what it was like to not own a smartphone, and also realize the fact that roughly 20% of Americans do not own a smartphone according to the Pew survey. It is important for libraries and schools to understand the communities that they serve so they can approach them accordingly. The Deloitte article on “How do today’s students use mobiles?” (2016) sheds some light on this issue by examining expectations and usage patterns among different age groups, focusing on comparing habits of those aged 18-24 to older adults 25+. This study indicates that the target age group expects to be able to use their mobile devices regularly to manage most aspects of their lives. With this in mind, it is important that academic libraries take this into account when seeking to develop new services.

Academic libraries must embrace new technologies while also being able/willing to recognize when something is not working. David Weinberger discusses the fact that the role of library is changing in his article “Let the Future Go” (2014). Rather than determining their own future, Weinberger argues that libraries should work on contributing to the services that are part of the library mission even if they are not directly library related. Because libraries already contain a vast amount of information, and have undergone many years of development and organizational refinement, they are in a position to help improve systems and technologies that are already being widely used. This idea that libraries must enable others to determine their role in the future is connected to the importance of remaining relevant technologically. One example of a mobile technology that has been falling out of favor is the QR code. Sean Cummings (2011) and B.L. Ochman (2013) offer distinct perspectives on QR codes that can be helpful when thinking about how libraries can implement new technologies going forward. The former points out ways that QR codes have been used that failed, but offers alternatives that encourage creativity and could lead to potential future success. Ochman, however, sees the failure of QR codes and their implementation as an example for the adoption of new technologies in the future.

As quickly as new mobile technologies are developed, it makes sense to leave old ones behind. Recognizing when something can be improved on or is no longer working, when something new can be implemented in an engaging way, and learning from mistakes in the past will all lead to better practices for working with emerging technologies in the future, and help us “serv[e] the user when and where they are.”

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Innovation in Physical and Digital Architecture

As with possibly every post for this class thus far, I am finding it hard to condense everything I think and want to say about this week’s topic, Hyperlinked Environments (specifically in relation to academic libraries), into a concise and readable blog post.

The introductory video about the North Carolina State University’s Hunt Library Story led me to seeking out more information specifically on the game lab. I am particularly interested in the role of game labs in academic libraries, and, perhaps partially fueled by the fact that I chose not to pursue a Ph.D. at NCSU so I could finish my MLIS, I wanted to learn more about how it fits into the atmosphere/environment of innovation being cultivated at the Hunt Library. I found this article on how an English class on War Documentaries used the game lab space to develop an interactive film project. In one interview, a student highlights the fact that the group was not sure what they would be doing until they actually saw the game lab space in the library. As they became more aware of the kinds of tools available to them, their vision of the project continued to change. This process got me thinking about innovation itself.

First of all, there is a constant push for innovation, change, and looking towards the future to come up with ideas that can have a positive impact on learning and student success. As I continue to come across literature with this forward-looking perspective, a thought came to me that does not seem to get brought up very often. To put it simply, innovation is hard. This is part of the reason why there is so much literature being produced to assess the need for and to inspire innovation. An awesome example of seeking new avenues for innovation was the Eureka! Library Innovation Challenge which tasked students with coming up with their own ideas for improving academic libraries. This example of participation with the community that will be using the library seems like something that could be implemented much more widely. Scott W.H. Young provides another example of participatory design in his article on the User Experience for Underrepresented Populations project at Montana State. University (2017). What if more academic libraries had ways of getting input directly from students? I am not sure what I would have suggested as an undergraduate or graduate student had I been asked, but opportunities to offer real suggestions that would be taken seriously by my institution would have been great ways to implement the kind of critical thinking skills I was learning.

This kind of participation enables students to engage in real-world critical thinking and information issues, a subject Barbara Fister emphasizes in her article “The Boundaries of ‘Information’ in Information Literacy” (2017). Fister points out that the kind of knowledge and skills associated specifically with navigating academic databases and obtaining information on academic topics does not necessarily translate to the world students will encounter after college. She questions whether current modes of teaching are sufficient for helping today’s students find success. This issue ties back to the spaces in which innovation and learning are occurring in higher education. The physical spaces provided by libraries such as NCSU’s Hunt Library mentioned above and Carnegie Mellon’s Sorrells Library seek to break down traditional the traditional view of libraries as repositories for books. In addition to changes in the design of physical spaces, however, is the importance of the digital landscape for learning. Side note: I continue to find it interesting that the language for describing digital spaces is similar to that of physical spaces, such as architecture, environment, even the use of the word “space.”

Like physical spaces, the digital learning environment must also be designed in a way that encourages student engagement. This can happen in a number of ways. Fister points out a major change in modern searching for students in her article on “Reframing Libraries” (2016), where she writes that some of the key qualities that frame scholarly research as a conversation, such as footnotes and references, are often lost on modern students because of the easy of searching databases by topic. Kelly Dagan (2018) asks the question of how we can make library websites and systems that enable users in new ways by being more personalized and streamlined. Likewise, Malcolm Brown, Nancy Millichap, and Joanne Dehoney (2015) suggest that the learning management system (LMS) of today has served its purpose in enabling the “administration of learning,” but the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE) is one that would consist of an “ecosystem” or “confederation” of different components that assist in learning, not just management.

All of this is to say that there is currently a great deal of innovation of going on in academic libraries even though it is hard. The current attitude of always looking ahead, seeking new approaches to new issues, is yielding results. Innovation is taking place in the design of libraries’ physical spaces as we look to undermine stereotypes about libraries being outdated homes for old books, and in the digital learning environments of libraries and classrooms. I failed once again to keep my post short and concise, but this module, like those in past weeks, has given me a lot to think about and it helps to try to get some ideas in writing.