This is one of a series of posts documenting my daily activities as a Resources Librarian at University of Wolverhampton, UK, as part of the Library Day in the Life project.

Today I’ll take the more traditional approach and record my activities, and the time I did them.

6.20 Second alarm went off, I finally decide it’s time to get up.

6.45 Leave home.

6.55 Get first bus.

7.25 Get University shuttle bus.

7.50 Arrive at work, such a quicker journey when I get the earlier buses.

8.00 Opened up (with help from colleague) – turned on OPACs, changed date to show Friday opening hours (we close earlier on Friday evenings), cancelled evening phone diversion, unlocked desk drawers etc.

8.10 Chat with colleague to update her on my recent discussions with the cataloguer about items in the Teaching Practice Collection. I’m hoping to change a sequence and have all fiction classified together in a similar fashion to a public/school library to make it easier to browse, and have a few cataloguing queries about classmarks for teaching materials – I’d like them to be classified by curriculum subject to improve browsing, but currently some are classified in the education section (in reality all materials in this collection are educational). Also discussed my ideas for hosting a coffee morning for academic staff to get them in to see the collection following a thorough weed and rearrangement of the room. I’d love to get more involvement from staff and see them really engage with the collection – recommending resources and setting assignments for students to use the resources.

8.20 Check emails, Twitter and RSS feeds.

8.35 Phone enquiry (we’re not really open until 8.45 but I answered it anyway seeing as I was about) – student thought she may have left her mobile phone on a group study room yesterday. Had a quick check in all the rooms and couldn’t find it, so gave her the number for lost property.

8.45 Set my mood for the day, today I chose focused. 10 tips on how to stay focused on the back (which I read to colleagues in office).

Focused - mood for the day

8.55 Manager arrives and briefly updates us on his visit to Coventry University library yesterday. He was very impressed with the way they manage their IT enquiries – using kiosks for students to log calls for support, and all IT staff have an iPod Touch to track enquiries whilst they’re out and about. He also seemed to really like the tracking devices that managers can use to check status of calls for each individual – how many they have, how quickly they are dealt with etc.

9.05 Checked our resources and Aberystwyth’s (where I am a distance learner) to see if I can get copies of some marketing articles for my dissertation, from a recommended list. Put in an inter library loan for one which I can’t get access to.

9.25 Checked mailing list emails (most are set up to go into a separate email folder). Followed up some links on upcoming events, and forwarded on an email on roving reference support which I think may be of interest to Katharine.

9.35 Took some more new books down to Teaching Practice, nice to see a keen student already working in there and using the resources.

10.00 Helped colleague with EndNote Web – preparing a presentation for a group of level one students in a few weeks, and our materials to support it need updating. Her PC doesn’t seem to want to work with Cite While You Write plugin in Word for EndNote Web, so I checked it out but couldn’t work out the problem. It’s something I’ve encountered before in the training sessions for EndNote Web, so I emailed a colleague to see if she knows what the problem might be.

10.15 Prepared for our staff meeting at 11, read the notes from the last meeting and checked the agenda.

10.25 Decided (as I’m so focused today!) to get back to a mini project of mine which I’ve been trying to get sorted since I had the idea at December’s Middlemash event. One of my bugbears as a subject librarian is finding out when new editions of books are published, generally I discover new editions when I re-check reading lists each semester (or as they are submitted, which is usually anytime after anyone needs the books). I’m hoping to create a Yahoo Pipe to help with this – to take details of the core books on reading lists for my subjects, run it through xISBN to get all related editions, organise by date descending and export as an RSS. That way I should be notified in my RSS reader whenever there is a new edition of any of my key texts, meaning I can order straight away (budget allowing!), and it ensures our stock is up-to-date. This may also help spread orders over the year rather than overloading orders assistants and processing staff in the run up to each semester. That’s the plan anyway! Unfortunately Yahoo Pipes wasn’t playing ball and keeps timing out so I gave up until later. If anyone has any advice on how to achieve this please let me know in the comments.

10.55 Sent an email to our helpful systems support and web admin (AKA Ben) to see if he can help with my new editions pipe.

11.00 Management meeting for Learning Centre (all librarians and supervisors from my centre). Included an interesting (and also a little bit silly!) discussion on how we should track who is in the building in case of fire – should we have multiple signing in sheets, or one ticksheet, or a laminated re-usable ticksheet, or velcro namebadges to add/remove, or in and out flip boards, or RFID tags?! I raised the issue about promoting that we are there to help on helpdesks (following yesterday’s discussion about students apologising for interrupting us), and we decided it would be a good idea to start promoting the helpdesks more and featuring staff in displays and electronic noticeboards so that people recognise who to ask for help. I’m hoping to work on a template using the new University brand guidelines for our electronic whiteboard, to feature staff and highlight what they can help with.

12.40 Quick lunch of gluten free crackers and Philadelphia – actually surprisingly yummy, despite everyone asking recently if I’m dieting! (I’m not, but have recently been diagnosed coeliac so am a little more limited in lunchtime choices). Office conversation recently has been about my lack of experimentation with food, so thanks to a kind colleague I had my first blueberry after lunch (only ever had them in muffins until now, shameful I know!).

13.00 Time to go on the enquiry desk until 3pm. Made sure to practice what I preach, and took my work out on the enquiry desk, nothing too involved so that people could see I was available to help. Also did some roaming and found people struggling to find books who I was able to help. Most of the enquiries were helping people use OPAC, finding books on the shelves or booking group study rooms. There was also a broken PC but a quick call to our IT team in the library soon fixed that (cable plugged in to wrong port!). Helped some lovely people and heard a fantastic quote: “I really like the library, I’d quite like to be a librarian.” Unfortunately I was eavesdropping at the time and wasn’t sure who said it so didn’t get chance to jump in and promote the profession. On days like today I love working on the enquiry desk; OK at times it can be a pain when you’re trying to work on office-based work (e.g. drowning in writing reports), but it’s such a rewarding part of the job. I replied to a couple of emails whilst I was on the enquiry desk, although hit my mailbox limit and lost one I’d written, downside of using Portable Firefox with Outlook Web Access is that it doesn’t save drafts. πŸ™

15.00 Rewrote and sent email I’d lost, a reply to a mailing list request about using mobiles for roving, something I recently blogged about.

15.15 Photocopied some useful sections of Library Mashups book before passing it on to a colleague.

15.20 Added replacement items to one of the most popular items in Teaching Practice, the Owl Babies Storysack, which I’ve been waiting to be returned for a while.

15.30 Chatted to a colleague about Google Social Search, Yahoo Pipes and other technology related stuff, great to have someone else in the office to discuss these sort of things with. Google Social Search looks really interesting, looking forward to testing it out.

15.45 Called a journal publisher regarding a letter recently received with details of changes to our subscription. In common with many publishers, they’re moving more to online material now so I wanted to make sure we were fully utilising our subscription. Spoke to a very helpful advisor who explained the changes, helped me log into our account, and added me to their monthly email subscription so that I can forward the monthly updates to interested academic staff.

16.15 Needed to get some books off the shelves for reclassification. Found all but one and sent on to our cataloguers.

16.30 Cleaned up my inbox, briefly checked Twitter, and tried to clear my desk (don’t like leaving too much stuff on my desk at the end of the week if I can help it).

16.50 Last few little things for the week – sending book to a colleague, arranging a new label for the Storysack, gathering reports and articles to take home.

17.05 Shut down PC, grab coat, sign out, run to University bus stop and just make it! Weekend starts now, hoping to start work on my dissertation, off to see Stephen K. Amos (comedian) tomorrow, maybe a trip to home improvement stores, and hopefully some relaxation and cross stitching. Enjoy your weekend everyone. πŸ™‚

This is one of a series of posts documenting my daily activities as a Resources Librarian at University of Wolverhampton, UK, as part of the Library Day in the Life project.

My desk at 11am - too much clutter and paperwork!

I was planning to get the earlier buses today which get me to work at 8ish so I could get some work done before we opened, but cuddles in bed with Cookie cat were too tempting to miss out on! I left home at 7.30 instead, and got the public bus and University shuttle. Bit of an eventful journey – I had a nose bleed on the University bus, but thankfully the kind student I was sat next to gave me loads of tissues.

I got to work just before 9am and checked emails, tweets and key RSS feeds. The project group for the CILIP big conversation was published this morning, and I was really pleased to learn that fellow new professional and blogger/microblogger Katie Fraser is on the group.

My first task of the day was to sort out a few outstanding issues from yesterday – cataloguing queries, new books, wrote a blog post etc. I also helped a colleague send a meeting request using Outlook Calendar – I’m a big user already but many colleagues prefer paper calendars. Outlook is good for sharing calendars though, and will be useful in future as staff are more geographically spread across campuses, so my colleague is keen to utilise it more.

At 10am I logged onto our virtual reference service; Thursday is our rota’d day to staff it. I had an early enquiry, but the user wanted to see someone in person ideally so I sent them a link to a relevant online help guide for their enquiry but also gave them information about where to get help in person. It always surprises me when students use our online service from within the building instead of going to the helpdesk, although I have to say my personal preference for getting help would probably be online.

A colleague is working through our reference collection and moving the majority into normal stock (reference collection is currently underused), and during the process she’s been looking at what we receive on standing order. I was really shocked to see the number of reference resources I didn’t know we had and particularly surprised to see the cost of them! Definitely something to look at more closely in future, particularly as so much information is now available online. I’d certainly be more likely to Google the name of a school to get contact details than look in the education yearbook.

Replied to some more emails, notified staff of new additions to the collection, and logged into my eportfolio as we had an email notifying us of new features. At this point I may have got slightly sidetracked with customising my eportfolio account! I’ve used it for the basics but would like to do more (or at least know how to!) on Pebblepad.

Then it was time for an early lunch, before my 1-3 slot on the enquiry desk. I had quite a few enquiries which was good as it’s been really quiet recently (many students didn’t return until this week). Lots of OPAC searches, directional enquiries, and helping people find books on the shelves. One thing I noticed on this slot were the number of students who apologising for asking for help, which worries me. Thankfully, I discovered after chatting to colleagues that it’s not exclusive to me, but we’re going to try to make sure the desk is more approachable and people don’t feel like they are interrupting – we are there to help after all!

Whilst I was on desk duty, I got materials together for an induction due at 4pm, but the lecturer called at 3.15ish and asked if we could move it forward. Thankfully the room was free so I took the group on a tour, and then gave them a brief introduction to our resources (PowerPoint and live demo). As always with these things, it didn’t go quite to plan – they seemed really impressed with e-books until I tried to get into one and hit an error page! Did get one working in the end though thankfully. They were a really enthusiastic group, and asked lots of questions which is always better than silence!

I finished the session at about 4ish, and spent the last hour tying up some loose ends with yet more emails, writing a blog post, and responding to a colleague about our RSS session. We run a session together for the Corporate Staff Development Programme, and it’s gathering more interest from teaching staff so we’re planning another scheduled session at the campus I’m based at, and more examples of RSS use in teaching included in the course. RSS is something we’re both quite passionate about, being advocates of new technologies and helping people manage information, and it’s great that we can help people utilise RSS feeds for teaching and research.

Last job for the day was taking some new books downstairs to the Teaching Practice Collection and checking a couple of classmarks, then it was time to log off virtual reference, shut down my machine, and go home. Thankfully no nose bleeds on the journey home!

This is one of a series of posts documenting my daily activities as a Resources Librarian at University of Wolverhampton, UK, as part of the Library Day in the Life project.

I decided not to blog yesterday, as most of my day was taken up with family activities (Monday and Tuesday are non-library days for me anyway). I did do a couple of library profession related activities though: completed and submitted my application for a student place at a conference, and emailed my newly appointed dissertation supervisor (more on this in a future post, exciting!).

Today was a late night librarian shift for me (although it’s only until 7.45pm). I work late every other Wednesday, and don’t tend to start work on these days until 12-1pm. I had a bit of a lazy morning (always a treat!), and finished reading the Non-Designer’s Design Book (highly recommended, although not read the second book on type yet) before setting off for work at 10.45am.

Due to timings, I took the public bus route into work (I usually get the University shuttle but it only runs once an hour). I spent the journey in my usual way – listening to music, tweeting, and reading. Today I had some dissertation related reading (library marketing journal articles) with me so I read a couple of those during my three bus trip.

I got to work at about 12.45pm (following a brief visit to Tesco to grab some food for later) and spent the next half hour or so catching up with colleagues on anything I’ve missed. One of the drawbacks of working part-time is the amount of information you miss out on whilst you’re not in work, so a lot of my first day back each week is spent catching up on and responding to emails, and finding out about changes or developments I need to know about verbally (plus the obligatory what people got up to at the weekend although it seems a long time ago!). In fact, most of the day today was spent catching up and responding to emails – something I’ve noticed is people seem to have longer strings of email conversations at the beginning of the week, or maybe it’s just my colleagues!

I helped out with a few enquiries (face to face and phone), checked in new books that had arrived since Monday, and prepared for an induction I was taking at 3.30pm. My manager had also asked me to find out if any other Universities loan equipment through the library management system on behalf of academic schools, so I asked on the Twitter and got lots of replies really quickly which I forwarded on to him. It was yet again great to demonstrate how useful Twitter can be.

I went to my induction at 3.30, and found that there were only two students – was a good job though really as the room I’d booked was occupied. I took them on a whistle stop tour of the building, and then logged onto a PC to show them the basics of OPAC and our major health databases. Despite being new students on this course, both had studied with us before so they were clued up on most of the basics which was great. I updated them on some of our newer services, and made sure they knew how to get help if they need it later on in their course.

Then it was back to the office where I had a message to call back a colleague on another campus. It was about a cataloguing request I’d made last week about the Teaching Practice collection, and as always seems to be the case, it’s not quite so straight forward as I initially thought. However, between us, I think we managed to establish the ideal situation, and with a bit of give and take I think we’ll hopefully get somewhere near to what I’d like.

Then it was time for a quick snack before the late night desk shift. It’s the first week of the semester so I had thought it might be busier tonight but I only had three in person enquiries – two of which were from the same person. I booked study skills sessions for a couple of students, and spent the rest of my evening responding to emails, mainly about reference management (we support EndNote and EndNote Web).

I was following the Apple news too, and was periodically checking TechCrunch and Twitter to see what exactly Apple are releasing and if it has any implications for libraries. I’m looking forward to seeing the iPad, although like many I think the name will have to be a grower! I was pleasantly surprised to see the price (a lot less than I had expected), and can certainly see that it would be useful for roaming (something I mentioned in an earlier post). I can also imagine that it will be a pretty affordable option for students, and particularly useful if they can get a good network deal in the UK. I can certainly see it could be useful for those living in halls – keep the keyboard dock in their room for writing assignments, and carry the iPad around to make notes in lectures and communicate whilst out and about.

My boyfriend kindly collected me from work at the end of my shift and cooked me a lovely tea whilst I was writing this blog post, and now I’m off to watch a bit of TV and do some cross stitch before bed.

I’m hoping tomorrow I can get some real work done now the emails are down to a manageable level! I’ll try to take some photos too, was planning to today but completely forgot so might edit this tomorrow to add an appropriate picture.

This week is the fourth round of Library Day in the Life, a project started by Bobbi Newman in which librarians (and other library workers) document their work activities. This is usually via blog posts, although some prefer to use photos, and this time there are a large number tweeting, using the tag #libday4.

Library Scenester has written a great blog post explaining the project and how it could be used by different user groups to give an insight into what we actually do as librarians.

I participated in the last round last July (see my earlier posts for an idea of what I got up to that week last July), and am also participating this time. As I’m a part time worker I only wrote posts for Wed-Fri last time, but I thought this time I’d also include brief posts for Monday and Tuesday as I’m often involved in activities related to the profession.

If you’d like to join in with Library Day in the Life, add you details to the wiki and link to your posts/tweets/photos.

____________________________________________________________

Monday started with a lovely lie-in and cat cuddles (apologies to all who usually have to work on a Monday morning!). I then checked in with Twitter and caught up with my emails, mainly from in bed – I love my iPhone!

I decided at 10am it was probably time to get up, and did some household chores. I spent the rest of the morning on Twitter and responding to messages relating to CILIP West Midlands. Unfortunately, we’ve had to cancel the Libraries: Building for the Future event which was scheduled for 9th February, so I helped make sure we publicised the fact that it had been cancelled on all our communication channels. I was responsible for updating our CILIP West Midlands Twitter feed and Facebook Page.

After that, I edited an application I’m submitting for a sponsored student place at a conference, and then had some lunch.

This afternoon I’ve been researching different ways of integrating Twitter with WordPress, and looking at some really good WordPress plugins. I don’t currently use many on Joeyanne Libraryanne, but it’s always good to find out about new developments – a great feature of an open source community! I’m playing around with some new plugins to pull in Twitter responses to blog posts, and to publish my blog posts to Twitter (until now I’ve been using Twitterfeed but I have found it a little unreliable recently). The one I’m currently trying is Twitter Blog, which links to your bit.ly account (useful for tracking purposes), and pulls in Twitter replies into blog comments. It doesn’t do either perfectly (e.g. I’d like to be able to customise each Twitter post in case I want to add custom information), so I may well try others also, but I’ll see how this one does for now. We currently use WordPress.com blogs at our library, but I like to keep on top of WordPress developments as I’d love to use WordPress.org to host our own blogs in future to have greater control. We also use WordPress for some of our smaller websites at Cookies And Java (boyfriend’s business which I support on Mon/Tues), so it’s useful to know what plugins are out there to add extra functionality for clients.

CILIP West Midlands are organising a one-day conference, Libraries – Building for the Future, held on Tuesday 9th February and sponsored by TOP-TEC. The event includes information about two exciting new libraries; The Library of Birmingham and the Worcester Library and History Centre, which will be the first fully integrated public and university library in Europe.

There are some great speakers, including library workers from different sectors as well as architects, and there will be opportunity for networking with other professionals, both in the library and architecture fields. The event will also include the AGMs for CILIP West Midlands, West Midlands Career Development Group, and the Public Libraries Group.

The conference is being held in Birmingham Theatre Library in central Birmingham (walking distance from New Street station).

It’s open to all – CILIP members and non-members; people local to the West Midlands region and those further afield. The cost for the day is just Β£17.25 for CILIP members, Β£34.50 for non- members, and the cost includes lunch and refreshments. You can read more about the day and get booking information from the programme.

It would be great to meet new people, so I hope to see you there! πŸ™‚

EDIT: Unfortunately, this event has since been cancelled.

Yesterday I attended my first CILIP West Midlands branch committee meeting at Birmingham Central Library (where I must investigate sometime, can’t believe I’ve never been in before!). I’m the new Marketing Officer for the branch which I’m really excited about.

Marketing in the library and information sector is becoming increasingly more important at the moment, particularly with budget cuts, and I know from my own experience that many in CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) are unaware of some of the benefits available to them as members. There is also a large number of information professionals who are not currently CILIP members, and although some of these people I know have perfectly valid reasons which I respect, I’m sure there are others who just aren’t a member through lack of awareness (either of CILIP itself or of the benefits of being a member).

At both a national level and a local level, I’m finding out more and more about how you can get involved in the profession and benefit from CILIP activities, even if it’s just an informal chat with like-minded people over a pint (or an Archer’s and lemonade in my case!).

I’ve taken over responsibility for the marketing from Katharine Widdows (now newsletter editor), and it’s a tough act to follow – her and David Viner (current chair), along with the rest of the committee, have been developing the use of social media in a big way over the last year or so. This has certainly contributed to an increase in my own understanding of what the branch does, and has inspired me to volunteer my time to join in helping to spread the word! We discussed some marketing ideas at the meeting; it underpins so much of the work of the branch (no point doing all this work and organising events if no one knows about them or what we do!).

I’m going to work on a strategic marketing plan for 2010, building on the work Katharine did as Marketing Officer last year. I’m really looking forward to this new challenge and can’t wait to get going with some marketing activities. πŸ™‚

Last night I attended a free webinar hosted by SirsiDynix on marketing libraries. The speaker was Nancy Dowd, who writes The ‘M’ Word blog and recently authored Bite-sized marketing: realistic solutions for the over-worked librarian.

I was particularly interested in the webinar due to my interest in marketing and my (proposed) dissertation topic, and I also hoped to see if there were any ideas I could use either at my place of work, or for my new role as CILIP West Midlands Marketing Officer.

The webinar didn’t disappoint – Nancy gave an excellent presentation and concluded the event by answering some of the questions that had been submitted. The software seemed to work well – it was browser based which is particularly beneficial for people who cannot download software to their PCs (having said that, for those of us in the UK it was evening here so anyone watching was probably at home!). This was the third online webinar I’ve attended, all of whom have used different software – yesterday the software enabled us to vote, and submit questions although I have to say I did miss the ability to chat to others attending the webinar (a feature of Wimba classroom which was used for last year’s 23 Things Summit).

So – the content:

Nancy talked about funding cuts which are prevalent across many libraries at the moment or likely to occur in the future. She stressed the importance of bearing this in mind when considering marketing, and also dealing with current general perceptions of the library. Many people still think of libraries as the traditional, musty smelling, silent libraries whose primary purpose is for academic research. There is obviously still a need for this (well the research part anyway!), but we need to have a consistent message of what the library is about (is it about lifelong learning? books and information? a community centre? empowering personal success?), and use that message to market the library. It needs to be a simple message, and should be conveyed in everything the library does to reinforce the brand. If we don’t brand ourselves, our perception will be based on other’s (possibly outdated) perceptions and that of the media. This seems particularly relevant at the moment with Seth Godin’s post about the future of the library and numerous subsequent posts responding to his comments (I’d definitely recommending reading these and other posts if you haven’t yet).

Nancy also touched on the evolution of marketing which is something I think libraries really need to start considering if they haven’t already. The way marketing works is changing and the most successful marketing campaigns nowadays (particularly for B2C markets) are those which utilise consumer advocates to spread the message. Tim Fishburne’s cartoon demostrates this well (reproduced with thanks to Tom Fishburne: this one time at Brand Camp, an excellent marketing/branding blog):

Evolution of Marketing

Evolution of Marketing

Nancy thinks many libraries may still be at the TV admen stage, and sadly I have to agree. All too often we try to sell our “stuff” (also mentioned at the CoFHE event by Terry Kendrick), rather than just letting our brand show and enabling users to act as advocates. Word of mouth marketing is a big buzz term in library marketing at the moment, but I can definitely see why; I know as a consumer myself that this method is far more likely to change my habits than any number of emails, leaflets, fliers etc.

Nancy then introduced what she called the Lone Ranger Marketing Mix:

  • Need to have a defined goal
  • Determine your target audience
  • Listen to what they are saying – use Twitter, blogs, social networks etc. (If negative feedback, don’t defend library, use it as an avenue to find out more about audience)
  • Create communication channel (select appropriate tool for target audience)
  • Begin the conversation
  • Measure
  • Evaluate

She discussed the positive and negatives of many possible marketing communication channels such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Listservs, Email, LinkedIn, SMS and MySpace (you can see more on this in her presentation), but the main points to take on board are to choose the appropriate tool depending on your target audience, and to update content regularly. She warned against setting up numerous avenues of conversation channels if there is no time to commit to keeping them up-to-date (however, many can be linked togethe to help in this – e.g. blog posts being fed into Twitter accounts). She also emphasised the importance of focusing on the content rather than the marketing element – it’s no good just cramming a blog with keywords to try to improve SEO if the content is not relevant or interesting – this is not going to be of any interest to your target audience.

Other points covered included using volunteers to support the work (particularly where people have skills that library staff may not already possess, and could benefit from expanding their portfolio), enabling online sharing if using Web 2.0 (e.g. using ShareThis tools like at the bottom of my blog posts), and having a good online PR presence with information for journalists to use (e.g. key quotes, relevant contacts, photos and videos for press to use).

I’ve embedded Nancy’s powerpoint below for anyone interested, and you can listen to the audio if you wish at SirsiDynix Institute.

I really enjoyed the webinar and would definitely recommend the software – there are a number of other free webinars you may be interested in, and Nancy is hoping to do another later this year.

The International Consumer Electronics Show Highlights Latest Gadgets

With a number of people having (or looking for) new mobile phones for Christmas or in the January sales, and people reflecting on the technological advances of the last decade (ignoring the debate about whether or not we’re actually in a new decade!), I’ve read a few blog posts recently about the great features of mobile devices and how useful they are. All this talk about mobile devices reminded me of a blog post I’ve been intending to write for a while so here it is.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I splashed out on an iPod Touch just over 2 years ago, and commented then on how mobile technologies were likely to affect both libraries and services in general in the future. I also wrote a series of posts about how to utilise some of the apps – some of which probably need updating but are still of use. I loved my iPod Touch but missed being able to use it when not in a wireless zone (particularly during my commute to work), and finally caved in earlier this year and bought myself an iPhone. I can now be usually found tapping away lost in the world of my iPhone (sad but true, I even started writing this blog post on my iPhone using the WordPress app as I was struggling to sleep). I use lots of different apps every day for my personal and work life, and find it invaluable when visiting new places (using maps, guides and useful transport apps to get about). I also use the web browser a lot, and many weekends now I don’t actually turn my laptop on at all and just stay connected via my iPhone.

I use it at work a lot – it has my Remember The Milk to do list application, and I can use it to check my email when I’m away from my desk. I also occasionally use it to access our OPAC (sadly not currently optimised for mobile browsers), and find this particularly useful when I’m in the shelves and not near an OPAC (e.g. when weeding).

Until recently I hadn’t used it for enquiries – most enquiries come to the enquiry desk anyway (we’re not actively roving yet) and if students catch you elsewhere in the building it’s usually not too far to the nearest OPAC. I’ve been following other libraries who have trialled mobile devices (such as Vicki Owen’s work at LJMU) and thought there was great potential, but never used it myself.

However, recently there have been two occasions when I have used my iPhone to deal with enquiries and it’s been really useful. The first time I was in the shelves helping with a backlog of shelving when a student asked for help locating an item. She was sure it should be available and had written down the classmark but couldn’t find it. I had a look with her but I couldn’t find it either. We were right by where the book should be and not very near to the OPACs, so I decided to double check the OPAC on my iPhone. It turned out the item wasn’t actually available (I think it may have been available at a different campus), and saved us time searching around as we now knew it wouldn’t be there. She thanked me for my help and said she’d reserve it instead. I guess we could even have reserved on my iPhone too, but she was happy to do that on her way out of the building. Happy student, and I was pleased to have been able to help her at her point (and location) of need.

The second occasion was when we were having problems with internet access, and I was weeding down in the basement – I often spend time in the shelves if the network is having problems. A student asked me for help locating books on a certain topic area and was stuck due to the internet problems. I had a vague idea where to look (secretly I quite like it when the OPAC is down as it tests your Dewey knowledge!), but wasn’t completely sure so decided to check using my mobile internet access on my iPhone. We found a specific classmark on the OPAC using my phone and the student was able to locate relevant materials. Another happy customer thanks to my iPhone.

Now OK, the second example was unusual circumstances and doesn’t happen that often thankfully, but the first example is something that happens all the time. We usually traipse over to the OPACs or the student has to come to the helpdesk (which must be frustrating for them as they’ve probably already checked, but we then double check as our OPAC isn’t very intuitive). Then, if it should (in theory) be available, we traipse back to the shelves (where the student has already been), and try to locate it. Sometimes at this point we find it, but sometimes the search continues to the recently returned items on trolleys, or sometimes even to the items still in the returns box by the self issue machines. If there’s only one available and the student can’t find it, I usually check our LMS to see when it was last returned which should give a clue to where it may be. Either way, it’s an unnecessarily long-winded procedure which could really be helped by mobile devices.

Some of our campuses are currently roving, but as far as I know they don’t have portable devices of any kind with them. Now that I’ve experienced it first hand, I can definitely see how it can help, even if it’s just iPod Touch or similar wireless enabled mobile devices used to access the OPAC and the web to assist with simple enquiries (although a tablet PC, or the rumoured Apple iSlate, with the admin side of the LMS as well as internet access would be even more useful).

I think maybe it’s finally time to put one of the suggestions sitting in my “possible future ideas” folder to management and see if it’s something we could potentially implement in the not too distant future.

I know there are a number of libraries who were interested in using mobile devices to assist with enquiries, is anyone using them currently? If so I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments, or if you know of anywhere that is currently using them.

I’ll definitely be watching with interest to see where this sort of thing progresses (the banks and airports are already actively using these sort of devices to aid customer service), and in the meantime you’ll be able to find me with my iPhone in my pocket in case students ask me for help when I’m out and about in the building. πŸ˜‰