Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Learning Blog #7 Mobile Technology AKA :CueCat2.0

In 1999 or so, I got one of these weird looking cats in the mail at work. What is it? Some kind of barcode scanner which was supposed to read special codes embedded in Wired magazine and....do something? I don't remember, but there was some controversy about collecting private information, and the company went out of business. But I thought it was kinda cool and stashed in   my Dresser of Obsolete Technology in my attic.

Turns out this "portable barcode scanner" was an idea ahead of its time. Cameras on smartphones have been turned into barcode readers and many apps have been created for online shopping. With various apps you can comparison shop, check availability, buy stuff, find out more information about a product.

So what does this have to do with libraries? I think Mr. Murphy (in his dreadful powerpoint presentation) was trying to say 1. don't jump on every mobile technology, it may be cool, but useless for libraries. 2. But many of your patrons do tweet, checkin on 4square, and expect everything on-the-go, so 3. create apps that take advantage of that. Tweak your catalog so it will look good on a tiny mobile screen, have the OPAC text a call number to their phone, send a tweet when a book on hold becomes avaialable.

In our group chat afterwards, many of us were concerned about the digital divide. 84% may have smart phones, but a smaller percentage are actually using the full capability of it. Don't spend a lot of time on something that will not benefit the most users.

PS. :CueCat update: I'm glad I hung onto this little baby, because someone has hacked the once proprietary software, so now it can decode the barcodes we use at the library. It saves us some time cataloging the books:scan a barcode to check the ISBN against Worldcat, import the record, tweak it add our holdings. Nice!

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