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Archive for the ‘Mobile technologies’ Category

Mobile access to information resources

Posted by benwynne2 on 14 April, 2011

UKeIG ran a very informative workhop on mobile access to information resources given by Martin White on the 13th April 2011.

This was good timing for me as we are currently working on a new Library Web site. ‘Mobile’ has obviously been on our minds although it has also been clear from early on that we would not be able to address the delivery of mobile services within the immediate project which needs to be completed by the end of August this year.

We also need to think about the whole of our Library ‘Web presence’ – the formal Web site but also the Web interface to the Catalogue and the associated Library user account, our Open URL Resolver, Summon (which we are implementing at the moment) and our digital institutional repository.

Then there is what publishers and other information providers are doing and this varies widely.

While I already realised that the options in developing mobile services are not clear cut, this workshop underlined the point!

Do you make your Web site ‘mobile friendly’ so that it is usable on smartphones and other mobile devices or do you create a bespoke Web site for mobile devices?

Do you provide mobile or Web apps? Mobile apps deliver specific functionality and are designed to run on the operating system of a specific device i.e. using Android, Symbian or other. Web apps also offer specific functionality but are designed to run in a Web browser – so have the advantage of running on any device but it must be connected to the Internet for the app to work.

What sort of mobile device are you trying to cater for anyway? Smartphones? Tablets? Or both? Tablets and smartphones are very different propositions given the much larger screens which tablets have.

What do your customers want to be able to do from a mobile device?

Not surprisingly, this is the most important question of all and it is certainly a question that we currently do not know the answer to.

Having started testing access to our Web interfaces from an iPad and smartphones recently the ‘user experience’ certainly differs radically from different devices.

Our existing and new Web site are perfectly usable on an iPad as is our Catalogue and Summon.

But the ‘experience’ using an iPhone and the HTC Wildfire we have tested to date are very different.

This is not surprising given the tiny screens and rather fiddly touchscreen keypads involved.

While our new Web site works *technically* on these phones, the interface is so compressed that it is virtually unusable. Yes, you can move about the screen and expand different parts of the page but it is a laborious process. Entering usernames and passwords to login into library accounts and resources is even more tedious than it is on a desktop.

My own experience and this workshop have led me to the following conclusions at this stage:

– don’t even think (if you were tempted) of making all your content and services available from small mobile devices (although you can do a lot more with tablets)

– understanding the context and motivation of the user is key. Where are they going to be using their mobile device and what are they going to want to do with it? (And here you also need to really think about what it is actually practical to do with one of these small devices i.e. alerting service for new journal articles sounds a useful application – but reading a journal article??)

– start again when defining and designing the content and services to provide (this doesn’t necessarily mean a completely different site as bespoke stylesheets can be used for mobile devices)

– keep it simple!

– do not try and support everything – you will not be able to

– remember what is really different about ‘mobile’ and play to the advantages that these differences offer. One of the real biggies here is that if a mobile device has GPS capability (as smartphones do) you have the option of providing location specific information to the user

We need to start with some user research to find out what our students and staff would want and find *easy and convenient* to use from small, mobile devices.

One of my fellow workshop participants was from another university library and they are a bit further ahead than us in their thinking on this. They plan to start with quick, ‘look up’ type information such as opening times and PC availability and they have some user feedback which supports this.

And what Web sites are doing ‘mobile’ well? Examples mentioned included:

(The following sites display the mobile interface if you are coming from a mobile device):


(The following site has a specific URL for the mobile site which will render on any device):


Note that these are all sites with the commercial imperative and income to get it right.

The American Chemical Society and Nature were mentioned amongst publishers who see major uses for ‘mobile’ – in providing alerting services to newly published research, for example.

Note these publishers use of ‘apps’.  An NHS librarian amongst us noted the demand they were getting from some clinical staff who originated from the States to be ‘apped up’ to access content available using local subscriptions – suggesting what might be an emerging need i.e. support with installing the appropriate apps.  Although how far can you take this?

And on the libraries front?

New York public libraries.

They have gone for the specific mobile site – which works well if you know it exists but, if you don’t, and you go to the ‘regular’ site you get a very different experience.

And, noted by my colleague Sarah Whittaker – North Caroline State University Library

Finally, we were pointed to an article in issue 64 (July 2010) of Ariadne which outlines how mobile delivery of information and services is being treated as an integral part of developing Birmingham’s new ‘central’ Library – the Library of Birmingham.

Posted in Digital Strategy & Website, Mobile technologies, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | 3 Comments »

eBooks, eBooks everywhere

Posted by selinalock on 22 October, 2010

eBook - Cybook

eBook by PPL 2A on Flickr

eBook discussion are popping up in all areas of my life at the moment, from print vs e on the British Fantasy Society forum, the new Doctor Who book by Michael Moorcock being available on the Kindle, to creating comics for the iPhone/Pad, to students asking about them in inductions, to many friends having just bought Kindles or iPads… so a very hot topic, particularly since the Kindle came down in price recently.

I was kindly allowed to gatecrash the CULN eBook & eReader session being run by the BDRA last week. so, here’s a few thoughts from that session and other things I’ve been reading:

  • What is an eBook? A document that can be read on an eReader?
  • How do you read an eBook?
  • Via computers, laptops, dedicated readers (Kindle, Sony eReader), iPad, iPhone, iTouch? Many different routes, some of which require the eBooks in certain formats.
  • There is now a Kindle app for non-Kindle devices to allow people to buy ebooks from Amazon.
  • eBooks formats: libraries still bound by publishers to use password/IP restricted sites, especially for textbooks, which only allow students to read the texts online rather than download them to their own devices.  The students are generally not impressed with this, nor the copyright restrictions that mean they can’t print much off either…
  • PDF – the favourite of academic journal publishers and still very popular with other publishers as an easy format for them to provide, but not a format that works well on dedicated eReaders.
  • Doc (word docs), txt (plain text), html.
  • Mobi (Mobipocket) format – used by the Kindle.
  • ePub format – used by Sony.
  • Why use an eReader instead of a laptop/ipad etc? eReaders like the Kindle and Sony use electronic paper technology, which mimics what ink looks like on paper. The theory being that tis makes is much easier to read the text and easier on the eyes. (Friends with a Kindle have commented they find it much easier to read than a computer screen).
  • Computer screens are backlit making them much brighter, and possibly causing more eye strain. Are younger readers more used to this technology?
  • Formats like Mobi and ePub are also designed to resize easily to the size of the device and reader requirements than traditional formats.
  • it is very easy to convert a Word document to various eBook formats using free software like calibre. (We have a go, it really is easy!). Calibre can also act as an eBook file organiser. e.g. inplace of iTunes on the Sony eReader.
  • Public libraries in the USA and Hampshire Libraries in the Uk have started experimenting with loaning eBooks using the Overdrive system. However, the Publishers Association have just announced new restrictions that look set to put a stop to a lot of eBook lending options!!
  • Lots of free (mainly out of copyright or creative commons) eBooks out there on services such as Project Gutenberg, Feedbooks and Manybooks.
  • Amazon have a new feature on all their book pages that allows you to ”Tell the publisher, I’d like this book on the Kindle” – is this where the pressure for eBooks will come from in future?
  • Also a very interesting piece by SF&F writer Charles Stross on why eBooks don’t cost much less to produce than printed books.

I’m sure there’s been lots more stuff out there that I’ve forgotten, anyone?

Posted in Mobile technologies, Service Delivery, Technology & Devices, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

USTLG Spring Meeting Redux (Afternoon)

Posted by selinalock on 17 May, 2010

Following on from my post USTLG Spring Meeting Redux (Morning), here’s few notes on the afternoon.

Theme for afternoon: social networking.

Advocating professional social networking to academics. Paula Anne Beasley and Linda Norbury, University of Birmingham.

  • The subject librarians are well placed to advocate Web2.0 tech for gathering information via social networks.
  • Found a knowledge gap for those not using Web2.0 or not of the generation to ‘just have a go’ at things & prefer some training.
  • Surveyed staff in College of Physical Sciences & Engineering about their use/knowledge of Web2.0 using a free text survey.
  • Responses variable, but enough interest to offer training session.
  • Major issues from survey were whether Web2.0 tools were secure/stable, whether there was a University policy on using them and a lack of knowledge.
  • Anne & Linda managed to get the College Academic Enhancement Group interested in the session, and all invites went out from that group rather than from the Library.
  • The training session that was offered was originally going to cover blogging and twitter. However, as Linda got stuck abroad due to the ash cloud it became focused only on blogging on the day.
  • 31 attendees for session: academics, admin staff, researchers & Emeritus Professors.
  • Got very good feedback and the attendees were enthusiastic about blogging on the day.
  • They hope to follow-up with seminars on social networking and social bookmarking, plus a support course in Blackboard.
  • No-one else in their University is currently offering training in this area.

‘Do Librarians Dream of Electric Tweets?”, Gareth Johnson, University of Leicester.

The next presentation was from our very own Gareth, who gave a very enthusiastic talk on using Web2.0 technology for networking, and in library services.  Main points were:

  • Why use things like twitter & Blogs?
  • For professional networking, self-reflection, sharing experiences, staff development, answering enquiries, motivating staff etc.
  • Can be very powerful tools.
  • Like Gareth, I pick up lots of useful information and links to new reports via twitter now rather than by other routes.
  • When using these technologies it is important to be human: respond to people, don’t just broadcast, share things.
  • The best use of web2.0 csome when you allow it to overlap your personal, workplace and professional lives, but if you’re not comfortable with this level of engagement it can still be useful when used only in work hours.
  • Important to “find the right tools for you”.

Gareth’s full presentation:

Posted in Digital Strategy & Website, Meetings, Mobile technologies, Research Support, Service Delivery, Staff training, Subject Support, Technology & Devices, Training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »


Posted by knockels on 29 May, 2009

We promote RefWorks widely to students and staff here at Leicester, as one of the two reference management tools that the University supports.   RefMobile is a way to access your RefWorks account on a mobile device.

I have a pay as you go internet enabled mobile phone, and had no problem accessing RefMobile on it.   I assume therefore that owners of jazzier devices will also have no problem, but it would be interesting to hear if that is true or not!

There is a “RefMobile” link prominent on the RefWorks home page, but it seems to try to download something onto your machine, not sure what.   But the RefWorks help pages on the subject are helpful, and so this is what I did:

On my  mobile I went to, where I was asked for the group code and my account details.   These are remembered for 14 days, apparently.   I was impressed – you can see all your folders, and the “SmartAdd” feature enables you to find references quickly using a DOI, an ISBN, or a PubMed ID, and download them.  I searched for one using a PubMed ID and was able to save the reference to my RefWorks account, and I could see it using RefWorks on the web (I was logged in already on the web, and so had to log out and in again).   

In theory this would be a quick way to record details of a reference from a colleague or other source, although you would of course need a PMID or similar reference, and it might take a few minutes to get into RefMobile, and into your account.   Still impressed, though!

Posted in Mobile technologies, Referencing, Research Support, Technology & Devices | 6 Comments »