Mobile academics - the smart use of electronic resources

In order to create a mobile-friendly environment, the librarians at Uppsala University had to develop their own skills.

With users becoming more mobile, academic librarians at Uppsala University (Sweden) set out to develop a mobile-friendly library  environment.  In order to do this effectively, they also needed to develop their own skills. Anna Kågedal and Linda Vidlund describe how - and why - they did it.

Our aims when setting out on our project were to:

  • market the library’s e-resources
  • raise usage statistics
  • provide an opportunity for professional development for our librarians
  • demonstrate the types of support librarians can offer
  • contribute to a better research and study climate.

How did we go about this?

In the autumn of 2012 we started to ask groups we met about their access to mobile technologies.  By using questions in the classroom, we estimated that 95% of the students owned smartphones, and roughly 15% owned tablets.

The simple act of asking these questions worked as a marketing exercise in itself.  They opened up a natural way to talk about our electronic resources and how to use mobile devices academically and we have continued to ask them. We decided to put together seminars targeting students and researchers at Uppsala University.  We called these seminars "Mobile Academics".

By setting up the seminars, we created an opportunity for ourselves to begin to build up our knowledge of electronic resources and mobile devices.

We invited students, researchers and librarians to the seminars so that we could discuss the issues together. We have now delivered many well-attended seminars in various campuses at Uppsala University.  We schedule the seminars at lunchtime and provide  sandwiches as an extra attraction.

We customise our seminars to reflect the subject specialisms of the campus. For example - when we talk to the faculties of literature and language, we demonstrate apps useful for language studies, and when we talk to the geology faculty we demonstrate apps for identifying minerals.

The content of the seminars has been more or less fixed according to this structure:

  • Questioning session and background – where we try to get ourselves a bit of an understanding of the group we are currently speaking to, to be able to adjust the content according to interest and level of knowledge regarding IT within the group
  • DRM – the hurdles in the acquisition process and the delivery process, and why there are no Swedish course books
  • Demonstration on the iPad of one e-book provider, and giving tips on how to get started, what settings and what passwords to use etc.
  • We show a few current pdf-readers and note-taking apps, and demonstrate a few of the features that can be used to enhance the reading experience and knowledge acquisition.
  • Use of cloud services

Why these things, and how to move on?   

We had previously delivered "Start using your iPad" seminars to librarians at Uppsala University Library. Our experience from delivering those showed that we needed to cover the basics such as "how to get started" rather than any more advanced setups.  Hopefully further down the line we can have other types of seminars around those issues, perhaps evaluating apps together with the group.

Right now we are starting to work with our large cultural heritage collections and our special collections reading rooms. How do these researchers work, and how could, for example, an app like Notability for iPad be of use for them?

Our seminars usually end with a talk about the future. We have been inspired by medical student Joshua Harding, who claims himself to be a paperless student. We present his visions of textbooks more like study partners, as well as other things that might be in the pipeline such as the increasing use of Augmented Reality and gamification.

Anna Kågedal and Linda Vidlund work at Uppsala University Library.

Image courtesy of tedeytan via Flickr.