Mobile Technology and Conferences

There seems to be an abundance of library conferences happening in the month of March that I have not been able to attend this year. While this makes me sad to miss learning about new trends, hanging out with friendly librarians, and networking with new librarians, I am able to stay up to date on the content of the conferences via Twitter. I am happy that I am able to learn in this way and gather new information, there are a few new practices that I am unable to participate in because I’m not physically at the conferences. The use of geo-location mobile apps, QR codes, and more are helping people connect in new ways while at professional conferences.

Foursquare seems to be a popular app being utilized right now at the ALA College and Research Libraries (ACRL) conference right now. ACRL pre-populated Foursquare with locations, which means they created new venues for all of the rooms in the conference center. Now, when an attendee is visiting the vendors in the ballroom, they can “check-in” to that specific location using their mobile phone. Vendors may even create locations specific to their booth, they can then use the check-ins to award prizes. ACRL may also give out prizes to whoever becomes “Mayor” of the various locations. I have seen conference attendees tweeting about taking people down who have earned the “Mayor” status. I think this is exciting for organizations that sponsor conferences in energizing the attendees.

It can also be useful for people who are attending conferences for the first time. They can see who else is checked-in to a location and approach them more comfortably. It’s easier to start a conversation when you know someone virtually than a complete stranger, I think. Or, it can provide an opportunity to join in more easily with a game or meetup. Joe Murphy, famous library blogger and mobile technology aficionado, blogged this week about ways to use mobile technology to engage conference attendees, specifically what he implemented at the Computers in Libraries Conference. One competition he started, used Instagram, a picture sharing app. Players had to tag their photos using the conference hashtag and a winner was chosen. This is going beyond a slightly passive engagement of simply “checking-in” to a more active role with images, tagging and sharing.

In his blog post, Joe Murphy notes that he encouraged people to use the Foodspotting app as well, but that did not have as much activity. I think this is an important aspect in utilizing new technologies–don’t be afraid to try something out, it may or may not take off and that’s OK, you’ll know for next time, or you can adapt it or try something completely different. I’m actually participating on a conference planning committee for the Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA) this year and I’m hoping to implement the use of Foursquare and possibly QR codes. QR codes are barcodes that can be programmed with all types of information that can be accessed with barcode readers on smart phones. They are being used all over the place! You’ll see them a lot in advertisements and magazines. They can be used at conferences for scavenger hunts, or to provide digital access to a presenters slides, or you can put them on your business cards and they can link to your online identity to be shared while networking.

I am excited to see how mobile technology is being used at library conferences and I cannot wait to implement some of the tools at the PaLA Conference. I hope that the attendees are open to testing some of the tools and engaging with other attendees. I’m also interested to hear how certain apps and sites worked out or failed at other conferences. Has anyone attended a conference where mobile technology and social networks were being widely received or promoted? I’d love to hear some feedback from other fields.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

About sheli223

My name is Sheli McHugh. I'm a librarian at the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pa. I enjoy coffee, reading, watching movies and skiing.