Welcoming Mobile Devices in Your Library: Webinar Recap

Is your library prepared to support mobile device-using patrons? The kickoff webinar in our mobile devices in libraries series explored how libraries can welcome mobile device users, starting with creating mobile-friendly library spaces and making sure your staff is well-trained. 


A Library Trainer and a "Geek Who Speaks English"

The Welcoming Mobile Devices in Your Library: Space & Staffing webinar featured two experts in library technology: 

  • Carson Block is a technology consultant in libraries. He's been called "a geek who speaks English," which means he can act as a bridge between librarians and IT professionals. His presentation focused on library infrastructure and how it can support mobile devices.
  • Scott Sime addressed the topic of training and preparing staff to help mobile device users. Scott is a librarian and trainer at the Johnson County Library in Kansas, and he believes strongly in having an educated and confident library staff.

With such informative and experienced presenters, the hour flew by and I left learning a lot about supporting mobile services. And from the comments I read in the chat room and on Twitter, I think the webinar participants did, too. I've tried to outline the most intriguing and important tidbits I learned from the webinar.

Assess Your IT Infrastructure

As with any technology project, it is important to assess what you currently have and what you'll need to support mobile use.

Here are some of the things you need consider:

  • Does your library have the power capacity to serve mobile users?
  • Is your network scalable? Can the systems you choose easily grow to adapt to changing needs? More and more devices are being connected to the Internet in surprising ways. Can your network handle all of them?
  • Can your building handle different technology configurations? For example, Carson discussed "raised floors," which allow you to easily lift up sections of the floor to move around wiring, cables, and other technology to support different configurations.

Power Up Mobile Devices and Users

Carson and Scott offered several examples of infrastructure that could help support patrons who bring their mobile devices into the library. Do you get frustrated crawling around on the ground looking for an outlet to charge your phone, e-reader, or laptop? Chances are, your patrons don't like that experience much either.


Scott offered a super low-tech DIY solution: the Johnson County Library just attaches powerstrips to library tables.

Yup, the library uses those $6 powerstrips you can buy just about anywhere. But by actually attaching them to the furniture, they're making the outlets easily accessible to patrons. Brilliant!   

Charging Bars

Carson shared a few more high-tech solutions, including the nifty idea of a "charging bar" with tabletop outlets. I love that the outlet is right in front of you on the tabletop so you can easily sit and read an e-book while charging it up.

The photo below shows the Frisco Public Library's charging bar. Users can plug in a variety of chargers, including USB chargers.

Device Lockers

My favorite idea was a device locker where users could safely and securely charge their cell phones while they did other work in the library. Here's what one looks like:

Device locker

Making Your Spaces Comfortable

Another great point Carson brought up was that you should make your charging spaces comfortable. Many libraries are already thinking about this for reading areas, but it makes sense to also incorporate it into your technology design.

How do you do this? Carson suggested you put yourself in the place of the patron and ask questions like these:

  • Can you access power easily?
  • Do you have to stoop down to plug in your device?

Training Staff to Welcome Mobile Users

Patrons aren't the only ones who need access to mobile devices – library staff does too. Understanding different devices, operating systems, and apps is key for librarians and library staff. Just having some basic familiarity with a new device can help with assisting patrons.

Scott uses a tiered approach to training staff to support mobile device users at the Johnson County Library:

  • Tier 1 was the high level training, usually done at an all staff meeting. This focused on sharing general industry knowledge as well as the library's role in supporting mobile technology.
  • Tier 2 was still pretty high level, but got more into actual devices and the expectations of patrons when using them.  
  • Tier 3 was the hands-on training to set up staff for success. Scott wanted to make sure that staff was comfortable with using devices before helping patrons.

Scott also talked about the on-demand help Johnson County Library staff provides. The library's philosophy is to provide information to help the patron help themselves, so they offer device use guides on the library's website (check out their e-books and devices pages).

If the patron needs additional support, they can contact library tech support staff, also known as the Tech Squad, in person, via IM, email, or over the phone.

Another great tidbit for getting both staff and patrons interested in learning technology is to find a killer app or cool feature that resonates with them.

This is just a sampling of the wealth of information in our Welcoming Mobile Devices in Your Library: Space & Staffing webinar. When you have time, be sure to watch the video archive of the whole webinar.

Additionally, make sure to register for the next two webinars in our mobile series, Adult Library Programs Gone Mobile and Mobile Friendly Youth Library Services.

Image 1: miniyo73 / CC BY-SA 2.0

All other images: courtesy of presenters