This is something that has been talked about at work (and is sort of happening in one of our branches). This article is about ipad use in academic libraries but lots of it is relevant in the public library environment.

The idea that librarians arm themselves with enhancing-services technologies (e.g. see txting or the ubiquitous presence of IM reference services) which reach students in- and outside the physical confines of the library is nothing new. But the idea of roving reference librarians certainly represents a conceptual leap in terms of delivering a targeted service at the point of need, rather than expecting students to physically turn up at the traditional (stationary) reference desk.

Here are some immediate benefits if reference/teaching librarians equip themselves with tablet-PCs:

  • Increase visibility of the library, its staff and resources as focus is given to the individual needs of the user (teaching and training)
  • Roving outreach activities may enhance the quality of patron-librarian interactions (point-in-need support)
  • Students who avoid the reference desk (for all sorts of different reasons) can be captured by directly approaching them on their terms
  • Roaming librarians may provide an opportunity for the library to better integrate with the wider institutional culture

Suggested modus operandi:
Roaming librarians invite students to approach them directly in the library and other locations as appropriate (staff armed with iPAD in hand and a t-shirt with the slogan, say, “reference librarian on duty” act as meaningful signifiers to students in need of help). This can be combined with the library’s IM reference service for the purpose of locating students that happen to be on campus. Effectively, the reference librarian responds to an IM contact and approaches the caller in situ if a) the complexity of the query warrants such a move, b) the caller happens to be physically in the library/on campus. Adequate IM backup covers for IM overflows and bottlenecks.

Some challenges….

  • Procurement, maintenance and operating service costs
  • Roving reference should be carefully planned considering service hours, service location(s), approach style, evaluation, technology, training and staffing so that services meet expectations
  • Spatial layout of the library might render this type of service inappropriate as noise levels are likely to increase
  • Student social spaces should not be ‘invaded’ by roaming librarians; focus instead on academic and academic/social spaces

Below is a short list of iPAD apps that represent a good starting point (check out ref for more). Bear in mind that apps are constantly updated and new apps are launched all the time.

Google apps (including Google Search, Maps and Youtube among others)
Chalk Board (allows you to draw on a chalkboard just as you would in a classroom)
Dragon Dictation (voice recognition application that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages)
Dictionary (trusted reference content from & – works offline)
Dropbox (cloud based file storage)
Evernote (collect information from anywhere into a single place)
Nook  (access over 3 million books, magazines, newspapers, comics, and more)
Jumbo Calculator (large-buttoned calculator for everyone, ages 2-92)
Kindle (optimised for iPAD)
Wikipanion (Wikipedia for iPAD)
World Factbook (includes extensive information on more than 250 countries and locations around the world)
PDF Reader Pro (very handy)
iSSRN (Social Science Research Network for access to scholarly research in the social sciences and humanities)

EBSCOhost (access EBSCOhost database content, provided courtesy of your library [as applicable])

Read full article here.