A colleague recently took a look at my blog and sent me an e-mail asking this question: "What is the main point about Android, mobility and libraries?" A good question, one I'll continue thinking about, and for now this is my reply:
I believe that eventually (within 1-2 years), if Android develops as I think/hope it will, there will be a shift in how people, and especially students, find, access and use information.
Traditional undergraduate students will use their laptops much less. Students who couldn't afford laptops will be able to purchase a handheld device that will be used in place of a laptop.
Students, who are always mobile, will rely on these devices more as they develop. And with nicely designed portable plugin keyboards, better than ever screen resolutions and/or larger portable screens, even those who want to write their papers on their devices and bypass purchasing a laptop will be able to do so.
Because students will be able to easily access and input information via their social networking sites, it will be important that librarians and libraries have a strong presence there and in other online places where students regularly spend their time.
Chat based services which allow students to "Ask a Librarian" are now available via Facebook and other social networks, and there are many libraries creating profiles in Facebook, MySpace, etc. I recently saw that one university created a JSTOR search widgit which I was able to add to my Facebook profile.
Course management systems will be another area students will be able to easily access via their hand held devices. Again it will be important that libraries embed course specific materials, Web 2.0 products relevant to the student's assignments, and perhaps access to a librarian for help via chat.
So how is this different from what trad. undergrad students are already doing? Well for one thing, and this is based on observations of my 20 year old college student daughter and her friends, I believe they will be accessing this info more often. And they will be more apt to use resources that are always available to them. My daughter lives on her cell phone, mainly texting her friends. She sleeps with it. When she visits she grabs my computer to check her Facebook and MySpace networks. She will not carry her laptop anywhere unless she must. Oh, and she has checked her e-mail once this semester! All her communication takes place via Facebook, MySpace and of course her cell phone via text message. She will take the time, if it's required, to access her course managment system at her home on her laptop.
What will be the ramifications of this shift to increased mobility on academic libraries? For one thing, I believe the library as place could become even more important. Students will need collaborative spaces to work on major projects together and also to socialize face to face. The library of the future should be designed to consider this as well as advanced technologies such as walls of large computer touch screens where students can work together on projects. Jeff Hann's work with multi-touch interfaces is one example. Interactive computer/furniture is another. The tables in this bar/lounge are interactive computers, and there is much more to come in this area.
I will be posting more on my thoughts about this and the academic library of the future. It will be increasingly important for librarians and library administrators to understand what types of changes need to be considered as we work to remain relevant in the academic community.