Monday, February 23, 2009

Can High Density Barcodes Connect the Mobile Library User?

I wrote about QR codes and their possible role within libraries about two years ago. I also discussed QR codes at the 2008 Medical Library Association conference on the Tech Trends panel and more recently discussed how they were being used at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show.

I thought I needed to bring up the topic once again when Educause sent out The 7 Things You Should Know About QR Codes the other day.

While conventional bar codes can store about 20 digits of information, a single QR (quick response) code is capable of handling 7,089 characters including numeric and alphabetic characters, symbols, and binary data. One can store just about anything as a QR code, including images. QR codes are quite durable since the allow up to 30% of the code to be obscured or removed by dirt, marks or damage and still readable. The nice thing is that there are many online services which generate QR codes and they can be printed as a graphic image. The QR code is an established ISO (ISO/IEC18004) standard.

Another emerging high density bar code technology is the Microsoft Tag, which uses up to eight-different colored triangles which are aligned left to right with each shape placed from point to base or vice versa. That combination of colors and orientation of the triangles creates distinct patterns which can be read by piece of software which deciphers the data. Up to 3,500 characters of information can be held in the Tag.

High density bar codes like QR codes and Microsoft Tag can both serve a similar function: linking the physical to networked resources for either objects or locations. Librarians could put these bar codes on handouts could direct customers directly to databases, a journal article or a current bibliography. Codes on various physical services could lead customers to help and tip sheets. Codes on promotional and marketing materials could lead customers to library resources.

As Educause points out, the greatest importance of high density bar codes like QR codes may not lie not in their specific use, which may be superseded by newer codes and interpreters, but in the opportunities they offer for moving away from keyboards as input devices in learning environments. This will grow in importance as library users rely more and more upon mobile devices. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Does Font Make a Difference in the Effectiveness of Library Handouts?
Every so often a handout or document published by a library comes across my desk that makes me squint or shake my head. The problem is frequently with bad design, colors, or layout. Many times the problem is when the author, trying to be cute or unique, decides to use a fancy font. Even at my library I'll make the argument that a simple sans serif font like Arial should be used.  It is not uncommon for the reaction to be a look of "what do you know? You're not a graphic artist!" 

Well, I have found research to back up my point of view. 

A University of Michigan psychologist and grad student, Norbert Schwarz and Hyunjin Song, wanted to see if they could motivate a group of 20-year-old college students to exercise regularly. The students were given written instructions for a regular exercise routine. Some were given instructions printed in Arial, a plain font; others got the instructions in a Brush font, looking as if it was written by hand with a Japanese paintbrush. The Ariel font was easier to read then the unfamiliar and much harder to read Brush font.

The outcome was that the students receiving the Arial font instructions were more enthusiastic about the exercise routine than those receiving them in the Brush font. The psychologists repeated the experiment using a sushi roll recipe and saw similar results. The authors noted:

Apparently the students’ brains mistook the ease of reading about exercise for the ease of actually doing push-ups and crunches, and this misunderstanding motivated them to think about a life change. Those who struggled through the Japanese brushstrokes had no intention of heading to the gym; the reading alone tired them out.

While the fonts used in the study were dramatically different, the research does indicate that font choice can impact the effectiveness of library handouts.

Hyunjin Song, Norbert Schwarz (2008). If It's Hard to Read, It's Hard to Do: Processing Fluency Affects Effort Prediction and Motivation Psychological Science, 19 (10), 986-988 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02189.x
Sphere: Related Content

Monday, February 09, 2009

New Responsibilities: Emerging Technology

Over the past year, I have been working with library leadership on the creation of a new role for me within our Library system. As is the case in many Universities, the health sciences library I work at is administratively separate from the main University Libraries (OSUL) . While a part of the libraries system, our only formal relationship with OSUL is though our faculty appointments.

The piece which took a little while to work through is an experimental and very interesting (and innovative?) job/time swap with OSUL. My new position description is below.

One of the challenges I saw in our library is that we simply do not have enough librarians to do a great job on many of the new information services and initiatives underway, such as a liaison program and what I call embedded reference. I also have observed from a distance that OSUL could benefit from more hands to handle IT-oriented projects. Additionally, I observed that both organizations were further challenged trying to keep staff up-to-date with various technologies.

So, as I was building the job description, I proposed the idea of a time swap in which I would work with OSUL and that a subject librarian from OSUL would assist with the new information services. This is the first time during my 16-year-tenure here that such an arrangement with OSUL has been suggested or made. The OSUL leadership was very supportive of the idea and have been really accommodating. The timing was perfect since the President of the University has been touting the idea of 'one campus' over the past year.

I know there are others out there with a similar title and responsibilities, and in some ways we are late to the party. But, we made it....

Emerging Technologies and Services Specialist

25% Spearheads efforts to enhance services through implementation of innovative customer-centered solutions; integrates technologies such as social networking, virtual reference, mobile technologies, and other Web 2.0 applications; directs cross-department project-oriented implementation teams; investigates and obtains external funding and serves as the Principal Investigator on related projects; participates in collaborative emerging technology projects within the University Libraries, the Colleges of the Health Sciences, the Medical Center, the Office of CIO, and TELR; collaborates in the design of assessment tools.

20% Shares knowledge about emerging and emergent technologies through formal and informal educational activities; collaborates with educational technology specialists in the application of emergent technologies in instructional and research activities; prepares presentations for leadership groups; serves as a resource for subject specialists / liaisons in the identification and application of technologies within their disciplines; creates customer-centered materials and activities as needed.

20% Serves as an emerging technologies specialist for the University Libraries; works closely and in consort with University Libraries IT Department leadership.

20% Faculty unassigned time for research, scholarship and professional service activities.

15% Serves as an explorer of, and champion for, the use of emerging and emergent technologies as part of the Prior Health Sciences Library and Center for Knowledge Management’s commitment to research, instruction, and knowledge transfer; keeps current in the latest developments in library technology, web-based support, and other emerging technologies; serves as a staff expert on technological trends and equipment in the marketplace and will articulate how these trends will impact and enhance the services; Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

TechTips: The Blog

Over the past two months or so, I have been emailing various technology related tips and tidbits to the students, staff, and faculty of The Ohio State University Libraries' system. The motivation to research, write, and communicate these TechTips came after many hallway conversations. It seemed to me that there was a growing need for our staff for a regular dose of emerging technology talk. 

The first TechTips were sent as email messages to gauge interest, plus, I know virtually everyone reads their email. Based on all the great feedback I received on the email version, I decided to set up "TechTips: The Blog." ( RSS ) to publish, archive, and syndicate the TechTips.

While many of the TechTips I publish on the TechTips blog may seem old technology and concepts to many readers of this blog, it will be the first time that many OSUL staff have read or heard about them. Perhaps for your staff as well.

I have a couple other ideas in the works relating to other staff technology education initiatives that I will make sure to communicate while they still aren't quite ready.  Sphere: Related Content