Smarter Together: Collaborative Tablet Communities on Campus and Reference Services Innovation

Article excerpt

Abstract

In 2011, several reference librarians at San Diego State University wrote a proposal to request iPads for a number of librarians to use to develop services. The result was collaboration between student computing, library administration, the digital technologies librarian, and reference librarians to explore the development of student services. Students' use of mobile technologies was a major factor in the funding of iPads for librarians. Service development for student use required regular community building and collaboration within this library organization. Chapter 3 of Library Technology Reports (vol. 48, no. 8) "Rethinking Reference and Instruction with Tablets" describes the technology adoption and development process that resulted in the formation of a user tablet community to foster creativity and communication among departments of a traditional library in order to create new services and programs aimed at providing better information services to university library patrons.

Introduction

This chapter describes how several reference librarians at San Diego State University, eager to gain understanding of how students and faculty used tablet computers and how they might develop reference services based on this understanding, started a tablet project group. This chapter includes examples of how, in a short time, the project led to increased communication among librarians and library staff on technology training and to meaningful library participation with the broader campus community in developing tablets into high-quality academic knowledge tools. This chapter explores librarian productivity, mobility tools that patrons use, and limitations in moving from brainstorming ideas to implementation. Readers of this chapter will learn best practices and recommendations for these work areas based on the literature and the findings from the project. Additionally, opportunities for professional development through online courses and conferences are addressed. Overall, this chapter shows how information professionals are smarter when they develop technological expertise together and why this is essential to today's student success.

Library Tablet User Community

The initial project goal was to develop librarians' tablet expertise. The library already had a mobile website, had developed QR codes for way-finding, and was working on an app. The librarians needed to incorporate mobile access devices into daily use to avail themselves of these developments. Further, librarians wanted to join the campus iPad User Group, or IPUG. This group, made up of faculty, staff, and information systems professionals on campus, met monthly to share what they learned about tablets to enhance academic work productivity. This community of scholars expanded teaching and curriculum resources to bring student learning up to date with available resources. The practical teaching enhancements that came from this community of scholars sharing their discipline specific findings using tablet technology led to a desire for the librarians to make a library tablet community. Members of a library tablet community would have to get tablets. Librarians wrote a proposal to the university library to justify funds for the devices. The proposal emphasized the shift to consumer technology among students in accessing information resources via mobile devices and the importance of librarians remaining abreast of this shift. The proposal was approved, and the reference librarians were issued two iPad 1s and four iPad 2s.

The combination of the influence of growing tablet use on campus and librarian research into tablet use led to the creation of the Library Tablet User Community. The purpose of this group was to encourage the professional development of library employees in tablet technology and to mentor librarians and staff who were not as technologically advanced as others in the basics of tablet computing. …