Monday, August 23, 2010

Going Mobile

Social networking devices may be encroaching slowly but surely on library outreach. The UCDavis instruction department is exercised continuously in trying to improve its instruction. The most recent project had to do with a series of orientations for STEP students (acronym unknown) who go through a short summer course prior to starting their first year to gain extra preparation for college. The library is given one hour to provide an orientation. In deciding what to focus on during this limited time, the instruction staff decided to go retro in a sense. One theme of feedback for introductory instruction is that when all has been said and done about the databases and instruction technology, many students do not know how to physically retrieve a book. This basic task seemed like a worthy goal for the STEP instruction as well as a fun activity.

The next big question was verification. It is easy enough to send students out to all corners of the library on their treasure hunt, but how to check that they've done the job correctly? Having the students bring the books back physically was not an option when there are multiple classes to be run over several days. In fact, keeping the books undisturbed over this time was a problem all by itself. Checking the answers to a list of questions completed by the students was not an option either within the time constraints. So, how can the students give what in action films is called "proof of life" that they had found the correct book? Action films provided something of answer although the actual idea was described in the recent CARL conference. Have students take a picture of the book with their cell phones and show it to the instructor. This hinged up how many students had cell phones which they could use for this purpose. The answer, we found, was that all of them did. The exercise went very smoothly with almost everyone finding their book and the students displaying an extra thrill in using their cell phones with which they seem to be very competent. It's hard to forecast just how social networking technology can be used by libraries. But by adopting an alert, opportunistic posture, the odds are that librarians will find something and that these connections will emerge.

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