A couple of weeks ago I attended my first full virtual conference – Handheld Librarian Online Conference V – yes, they have held five of them already! I’ve attended webinars before and tracked numerous events online that I have been unable to attend in person, but this was my first fully fledged online conference. It was really good value for money ($45), and although it meant working through the evening (due to time zone differences the conferences was 4 – 11.30pm in UK time!) it was definitely something I would do again. The software (Adobe Connect) worked really well, there were very few sound problems (ironically, the only ones I experiences was when the keynote speaker from Mashable was presenting), and the fact that is was all online meant that you could join in all aspects of the conference, including a virtual exhibition.
The conference itself was interesting – I attended the following sessions:
- Evaluating mobile options for your library (Amy Deschenes, Simmons College Library)
- KEYNOTE: How mobile, portable devices and real-time data are impacting research (Christina Warren, Mashable)
- Doing more with less: what to do with your 140 characters (Donna Ekart, Kansas State University)
- Exploring mobile reference (Amy Vecchione, Boise State University, and Tobie Garrick, Boise Public Library)
- Four short sessions all about QR codes (Christina Wray, Indiana University; Melissa Mallon, Wichita State University; Lorin Flores and Tara Smith, Texas State University – San Marcos; Kawanna Bright, University of Texas at San Antonio, and Heather Williams, Instructional Designer)
- Now Trends and Next Disruptions (Joe Murphy, Yale University)
I have also had a quick look through the archives and watched some of the other sessions (attendees can view recordings for 6 months after the event).
App or mobile website?
There was a lot of discussion about whether libraries should be using dedicated apps or mobile websites, and the general consensus tended to support development of a mobile website as they are cross-platform, easier to update, and at the moment probably offer best value for money.
QR codes seem very popular with libraries at the moment – there’s a lot of experimentation going on. They were also the thing most librarians at my CoFHE conference session on ‘Experimenting with mobile technologies’ wanted to investigate further. Some useful advice from the sessions at Handheld Librarian including using trackable URLs so that you can see how many people used the QR codes. You could use different QR codes to differently bit.ly URLs (but the same end URL) in different places to see which is used most might be one way of testing the best locations for QR codes.
Mobile reference and Twitter
The mobile reference session included a hot topic – roving reference using iPads. In common with University of Warwick Library they commented that had a few technical issues with the iPad initially (e.g. accessing the catalogue) – however, they commented that the response they have had from students has been really good. The undergraduates in particular think it’s ‘cool’ that the librarians carry iPads around to help them. This has also enabled them to help students in different areas, including taking the iPad into the faculty to support students with reference enquiries.
The session I took most from was actually the session on Twitter – not necessarily solely a mobile tool, but often used on mobile devices. This was a really interesting session with some great tips for institutional use of Twitter; I’ll write up a separate blog post about this as there was lots of really useful information.
I didn’t get much chance to visit the exhibition – I got the timezones confused and ended up visiting before it had started and then too late! I did watch a cool video demo of iBallz (to protect your iPad) and visited a couple of the other booths to look at their documents. I wish the information had been there even if the sales rep wasn’t though – that way I could have at least looked at the presentation for myself.
Handheld Librarian was a really interesting conference, and one I definitely hope to attend in future. It was great value for money, and had some really interesting sessions. One thing I also really like about virtual conferences where sessions are recorded is that if two sessions you want to attend clash, you can at least watch the recording of the other one after the conference or during a break. I’d love to see more conferences moving online in future; I think I’m going to set myself a challenge of getting involved in organising an online event at some point.