Libraries "Mobilizing" Content For Today's PDA-Enabled Learners

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Thank to Resource Shelf, I found this article by Joan Lippincott, the Associate Director for the Coalition for Networked Information, discussing the implication of mobile technologies and users for academic libraries. As I read through the PDF here, I couldn’t help but analogize to law libraries, informatio professionals and lawyers.

I was pleased to read that academic librarians are aware of how vital and integral these new technologies have become to emerging generations. Children think nothing of turning to the smart-phone or iPod for news, weather and the answer to such questions as whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable. Rather than cutting young learners completely off from these tools, savvy educators need to recognize how these tools currently are being used and how they can be used to best effect in transferring the right knowledge at the right time. In our fast-paced educational and professional lives, timing truly is everything.

The author points to studies showing that students don’t merely rely on these “toys” for diversion. Instead, students use their mobile technology to support their learning, create and present content and seek out peer support or conference. Mobile devices can be described as “individualized learning environments” that can go anywhere and everywhere with students. For lawyers, these little devices can be tiny warehouses of information, putting codes and statutes, cases and client information at the fingertips.

The author admonishes academic information professionals to actively seek out information about what students and faculty are using and determine how best to partner with them to provide a more seamless flow of information. Some users will be on-campus and require information flow from workstation to workstation, while other users may be remote and be even more dependent upon on-line transfer. Those offering support must determine the tools in order to best package information for those devices.

The big question for me is when will rich content be made available to users on mobile devices? The author notes that such licensing is the narrow exception, rather than rule. As the author points out:

One can imagine offering reference sources for other researchers (students or faculty) in the field, such as those doing agricultural studies,environmental data collection, anthropological work, or social-services work in the community. Such individuals may find ready access to directories, handbooks, and the like to be of great utility in the field.

I can imagine a few attorneys who might be interested in such a live connection to their reference and resource materials.

The author also notes the prolific use of podcasts and audio content for download. Imagine being able to videotape a deposition and immediately be able to transfer through mobile medium to the waiting team of attorneys at another location?

Mobile access means 24-7 access to resources and reference. The question for the information professional (or firm IT department) is “what kind of information do my charges need and how can I best get that information to them?” The author rightly points out that best practices might include introducing students and faculty (and lawyers and support staff) to the available tech and provide instruction and support on how that tech can best be used to secure the required information. For the mobile generation, PDAs, smartphones, iPods and netbooks will likely be the weapon of choice. I for one, am waiting for those who guard the information to package it for mobile consumption.

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