Go Mobile with Your Library's Adult Programming

Got a bunch of mobile devices sitting around at your library, but not sure what to do with them? We've got some ideas for you! In last week's webinar, Adult Library Programs Gone Mobile, we invited librarians Ann Awakuni and Jezmynne Dene to share their ideas and experiences.

  • Ann currently manages two branches at San Jose Public Library. Prior to that, she was a technology librarian and resident ebook guru at the Mountain View Public Library in California. She helped launch the Google Nexus 7 lending program.
  • Jezmynne is the Director of the Portneuf District Library, located in Chubbuck, Idaho. She currently manages the Gizmo Garage program at her library.

Ideas and tips came not only from our speakers, but also from participants in the webinar chat and via Twitter. It is incredible how much information was shared in just one short hour. You can watch an archive of the full webinar here, but I've picked out some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom:   

Design Programming Around Your Community

Mobile programming doesn't need to be one-size-fits-all. Look at your community, assess what their needs are, and design your programming from there. Check out this list of mobile programs from other libraries:

My favorite one here is the Computers for Cowboys program at the Bertha Voyer Memorial Library in Honey Grove, TX. This is an example of a program that goes beyond the walls of the library and into the field … literally. The program teaches people working on farms and ranches how to incorporate mobile into agricultural work.

Check Out Devices to Staff

Jezmynne focused on the Gizmo Garage program, which is a joint project with the Idaho Commission for Libraries. The Gizmo Garages can be checked out to libraries in complete parts for an extended period of time, or for one-time events. When the Portneuf District Library hosted a Gizmo Garage, Jezmynne realized that her staff wasn't all that familiar with the diverse set of tablets and smartphones. She decided to check the devices out to her staff for a few weeks at a time. They were expected to:

  • Treat it as a personal device
  • Use it with library materials
  • Return it with a report of pros/cons

As a result, staff gained familiarity with the different devices, tested how mobile-friendly the library services were, and became subject experts for certain apps or operating systems.

Secrets to Successful Device Instruction

Jezmynne found that most people chose to bring in their own devices rather than use the ones provided by the Gizmo Garage. This meant there was a wide range of devices and operating systems and an lots and lots of questions. Here's how to avoid chaos when teaching patrons how to use mobile devices:

  • Group patrons together by operating system
  • Ratio of staff to user – 1:3
  • Limit time and attendance
  • Have a few power cords and chargers
  • Ask patrons to bring in passwords, credit card for setting up app store account, and their e-mail address
  • Be okay with going slightly off topic. They should be user-driven!
  • Practice patience!

Blueprints for an E-Reader Fair

Ann offered two different schematics for setting up an e-reader fair, both of which were used at the Mountain View Public Library. One option is to designate tables for certain devices. Ann found that this model is popular with patrons as they can easily find help for their specific device. The downside is that this is a very staff-intensive model as certain tables will be busier (hello, Kindle!) than others.

The other option Ann tried was a "Genius Bar" set up as you'd see in an Apple store. Instead of having individual tables, they positioned three tables in one long row with devices for patrons to use. Three staff members stood by to assist the patrons with the devices. She said she actually liked this set-up much better than the first as it was less staff intensive.

Ann recommends giving your staff blueprints of e-reader fair set-up in advance of the actual event. That way, they know where they need to stand and how patrons will approach them. She said she created the blueprints above in PowerPoint.

Miscellaneous Ideas

As I mentioned, there was a steady stream of ideas for mobile programming coming in from our chat and social media. Here are a few:

  • Twitter book club
  • Drop in hours for ANYTHING, mobile devices included
  • Finch Robot for computer science education
  • Smartphone photography class for seniors
  • Device instruction on recipe cards

What kind of mobile programming are you doing at your library for adults? What do you want to do? Share with us in the comments!

Image 1: Crystal Schimpf, TechSoup for Libraries

Image 2: Ann Awakuni, Mountain View Library