Back in 2013 (which seems like ages ago when it comes to technology) we had our third “Gadgets and Gear” conference. Those of you who attended may recall the presentation by Jason Griffey about LibraryBox, a device that allows you to share content (documents, software files, images) wirelessly. He recently released a 2.0 version so we bought one here at WNYLRC to try out.
LibraryBox is available in two ways. One is to download the software and install it on a router. The Building Your Own LibraryBox 2.0 page has links to download the code, and a list of suggested hardware to use. This option requires a bit of technical know-how (although with the latest software version makes it easier). This was the only way to get the device back when Jason presented for us, and my former WNYLRC colleagues Karlen Chase and Janelle Toner used it in Fall 2013 to set up a LibraryBox for CHIA (Committee for Health Information Access) to use at outreach events.
Starting in 2014, Jason added a second way to get a LibraryBox, which is to purchase a pre-built one, available from Shopify. In addition, a 2.0 version of the code was released later that year, offering features such as statistics and an updated interface. Although I consider myself fairly tech-savvy, now that a pre-built version was available, I decided to try that.
The device itself is fairly small, just over 2 inches squared. It comes with a charging cable and a small USB stick which holds the content you want to deliver. After charging it, I just had to follow the instructions at http://librarybox.us/instructions.php . When the LibraryBox is on, it projects a wifi signal, which I checked out on my phone and one of our laptops.
So even if you are in a location with no actual wifi signal, you can still just connect to the LibraryBox. From there, when you open your web browser and try to visit any site, you are redirected to the device’s home screen. Notice that in addition to being able to download content, there is also a chat room that can be used by anyone connected to the signal. No login or account required!
By selecting “All Content” you can see directories of different content types, such as text, images and software. The USB stick came pre-loaded with some content, including open source software, books from the Gutenberg Project, and a picture of cats (of course). To use your own content, just remove the USB stick, load it with what you want, and insert back into the LibraryBox.
Now that the device is ready to go, what can you do with it? Here are some ideas:
- Our CHIA committee used their LibraryBox to distribute PDFs of health-related information, with documents from UB’s Health Sciences Library and the National Library of Medicine. This was used at various community outreach events.
- As I previously wrote on this blog, at last year’s NYLA conference, the SMART section used a LibraryBox to distribute “badges” for attending our workshops. At each smart-sponsored workshop, attendees were encouraged to download a badge, with the person presenting the most badges at the end of the conference winning a prize. You could use this same idea as part of a scavenger hunt inside the library.
- At a workshop or presentation, you could distribute digital “handouts” to attendees rather than (or in addition to) hard copies.
- Use the chat room function at events.
- As suggested in this Makezine article, “Share e-books from a roving bookmobile.”
- Check out more ideas from the Library Box Use Cases
As I was writing this article, I learned that LibraryBox had just been named among the 2015 Nominet Trust 100, an annual recognition of technology that changes the world, inspires people, and improves society. In the NT100 entry for LibraryBox, they mention its ability to let the owner maintain control and access of content, which is especially useful in areas of the world where digital access may be limited. While this isn’t something likely to affect us directly in Western New York, it’s an ideal that we can all appreciate as librarians.
In Spring 2016 I’ll be presenting a class on library-related technology and gadgets, which will include LibraryBox so check our website or listserv for updates after the new year.