Report on Handheld Librarian 2010

On February 17-18, 2010, I “attended” an online conference called “The Handheld Librarian II" which was sponsored by Alliance Library System, LearningTimes and Infoquest. This was a follow-up to the original “Handheld Librarian” online conference in 2009. It featured speakers in topics relating to library use of mobile technology, such as eBook readers, SmartPhones, and text-messaging reference.

 I signed up via the Handheld Librarian website, and was later emailed the directions for how to login to the conference at the scheduled day/time. It was held via Adobe Connect, a web-conferencing program similar WebEx, the program that we use at WNYLRC for our “Lunchtime Learning” webinars. The software allowed the conference presenters to be heard through the computer as they showed visuals using slides. A chat box on the side of the screen was used by participants to discuss the topic at hand, as well as pose questions for the speaker. A few time slots had “keynote speakers” in which all attendees saw the same presentation, while a few time slots allowed a choice of different speakers to see.

 Some insights from a few presentations that I’d like to share:

“One Block at a Time: Building a Mobile Site”

Chad Haefele spoke about creating a mobile site for a library. Some tips:

  • Creating a webapp (mobile website) is usually more feasible for libraries than creating a native app, which requires advanced programming skills. A mobile website can be created in HTML and CSS, the same as a “regular” website.
  • It’s important to remember to keep your mobile site updated just as much as your regular website. (An idea I thought of – maybe use PHP and “include” files to list data such as hours or calendar information. Then you can just update the include file and the data will automatically change on both websites.)
  • If possible, make use of auto-detection – the website can detect if the user is coming from a mobile device, and automatically redirect them to the mobile site.

 “The State of Ebooks

Mark Beatty spoke about reading eBooks with SmartPhones, and showed some examples of how a book looks on an iPhone:

  • Mobile eBook apps have allowed some people to read more than ever. Since you always have your phone with you, you can read for a few minutes at the doctor’s office, while waiting in line, etc. You wouldn’t necessarily always have a hard-copy book carried around with you.

 "This is Now: The Mobile Library"

Joe Murphy spoke on mobile trends:

  • Joe introduced a new concept to me: QR codes. These are similar to bar codes, which can be scanned by some SmartPhones that have an app for it. The codes store data such as messages or website addresses, which the user can immediately access with a quick scan.

 A good intro to QR codes is available here:

For some ideas on what libraries are doing with them, see this article:


Mobilizing the Library: Beyond the Catalog”

Three librarians from NCSU spoke about creating a mobile website:

  • Creating a mobile website means more than just mean shrinking the page
  • You should eliminate non-essential items like sidebars, etc., which will clutter the screen. Include only key data.

 "Mobile Trends and Social Reference"

Alison Miller spoke about trends in SMS Reference (text messaging) and mobile websites:

  • Alison was asked what kind of “tone” librarians should adopt when doing SMS reference. She suggested that our tone should match the patron’s. For example, a quick question sent with no greeting/pleasantries should be answered in kind: “The population of Niagara Falls is 82,181.” However, a more conversational tone in the question (“Hi! Can you please help me with…”) should be answered a similar way: “Hello, and thanks for your question! The population of Niagara Falls is 82,181.”
  • Some examples of mobile websites:

 I’ll end this post with a question: Should WNYLRC do an online conference? Would you attend? What topic(s) would you be interested in seeing in this format? Post your comments here, or email me at

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