Library alchemy – transforming digital information into physical

This is my first attempt at putting digital information out into the physical library.

Many students go straight to the bookshelves when they want information. Completely bypassing the computers with millions of relevant articles and books that we librarians have cunningly placed conveniently obstructing their way into the library.

By putting a touchscreen (Asus EEE Top) where the books are I hope that they might discover all that is available in digital format as well. The screen shows an article on the subject that is on this shelf, the Falklands war of 1982.

I have set up a netvibes page with preconfigured searches in RSS and some useful pages on the subject. By touching the screen the students can access articles and webpages directly.
There is a printer at the end of the bookshelf so they can print out anything interesting they find.

Needless to say, this is all very experimental and beta. I must solve a lot of small issues before school starts in august. Security, navigation and automatic reset are some that I have discovered just today.  I have not solved the issue on integrating my library OPAC into the netvibes page, but on the other hand, when you are at the correct section, who needs the OPAC to see what books are in? But I am really happy with how this worked out so far.

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11 comments on “Library alchemy – transforming digital information into physical
  1. Magnus Enger says:

    Way cool, Thomas! Let’s see if we can’t think up some Koha goodness to put on that screen!

  2. Great idea, but have you tried to actually figure out why the climb over the computers to get to the bookshelves? (I guess you have, and I’m curious about what your thoughts are…)

  3. I’m also thinking about this question…

  4. Here are some possibilities that have occurred to me, but I don’t have the experience needed to judge how valid/relevant each one is…

    1. habit or familiarity

    2. technophobia (or -scepticism)

    3. Books (paper) give more warm and fuzzy feelings.

    4. Computer searches overwhelm you with lots of irrelevant material, making them slower to use in practice.

    5. Computers have a steeper learning curve, even though they may be more effective to use once one has overcome the initial difficulties.

    6. “If I wanted to look it up on a computer, I’d stayed at home/in the office and done it there.”

  5. LAV says:

    #7 – Instructor specifically requests that students use a print format over an electronic one. Happens a lot here – I’m at a public library, but we’re between two university libraries, and there’s a lot of cross-over patronage with assignments, etc.

  6. Thomas says:

    Had to think about this for a while. I think the main reason is habit and unfamiliarity with digital resources. Plus I believe books are still percieved as a more “authoritative” source (at least some of the lecturers at the academy thinks so:-))

  7. CH says:

    Hi Thomas! Are there some experiences from your experiments that you could tell? This sounds really like a good idea, but I’m not sure if “our” students would use that.

  8. Since the semester start today it is a bit too early to speak of experiences. I will post when I have a feeling for how the students react. It is an advantage to work in a very small library with a closed group of students and staff. I can get far more detailed feedback just by talking to people.

  9. hauschke says:

    Thanks, I’m looking forward for your posting.

  10. CH says:

    What happened with your experiment? Every now and then I’m think about combining virtual with physical resources, and I always come back to your library alchemy.

  11. The experiment was inconclusive. The machine was used a lot, but more for surfing than viewing articles. I am working on a new interface and will increase the number of screens in the library. Will also think of how to get better metrics of use than today.

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