A couple notes on where I’ll be at ALA 2010 this week:

First, I’m presenting on ALCTS’ Mobile Catalog Interfaces panel:
Saturday 6/26/10 10:30 am-12:00 noon

I’ll be going over our mobile catalog interface, a bit about the design process, pointing out some new features, and hoping for great questions.

Second, I’m co-chair of LITA’s Distance Learning Interest Group. We’re co-sponsoring a program with ACRL’s Distance Learning Section:
Open Access: A Conversation
Saturday, 6/26/10 1:30 to 3:30 pm
Washington Convention Center
Room WCC-144A-C

Third, for the DLIG annual meeting we’re trying something a little different. Instead of having a giant room reserved for a standard roundtable discussion for a block of time, we’ve reserved some space in the Networking Uncommons: http://annual.ala.org/2010/index.php?title=Networking_Uncommons
Networking Uncommons space
Sunday, 6/27 9:30-10AM

The Uncommons is a space on level 1, concourse A, near the exhibits. There’s tables, a projector, and plenty of power strips. We have no specific agenda. Just show up, hang out, and mingle! It’ll be morning, so feel free to view it as a warmup for the day – bring coffee and ideas. We have the 9:30-10AM Uncommons slot on Sunday the 27th.

Hope to see you there! If anyone wants to meet up during the conference, the best way to get ahold of me is a message on twitter. I’ll be around from Friday – Sunday, leaving Monday morning and trying not to melt.

Barcode scanning: Closing the app gap

I still think a lot (some might say too much) about what libraries’ mobile presence should be like. I’m still mostly happy with the decision to make a webapp instead of an app, but every once in a while I want to do something a webapp can’t. Barcode search has always been at the top of that list. We’ve got all that ISBN data in the catalog, and every book in a bookstore has an ISBN barcode. Matching those two things up would be pretty convenient. Why spend money on a book if it sits in the stacks above my head every day already, right? It’s also a feature that’s definitively mobile – it doesn’t really make any sense to search via barcode scan on a desktop browser. The best use case for catalog search via barcode scan is when I’m out and about in a bookstore, not sitting at my desk.

But webapps can’t access a phone’s camera. And no camera means no barcode scanning.

Both Android and iPhone have a number of barcode scanning apps available – including Zxing and RedLaser, respectively. Thankfully developers of both included ways to invoke those scanners from a webpage! More info on how to do this is here and here. It’s not too difficult – the only technical skill involved is understanding how to build catalog search URL.

Earlier this month we built barcode scan searches into our mobile catalog. It only works on Android and iPhone devices, and requires that Zxing or RedLaser is installed first. So it’s not a seamless experience and requires some explanation to users. I’m still working out those kinks, but was both comfortable with and excited enough about this feature to push it out with a beta label. It’s live on our mobile site at www.lib.unc.edu/m

Webapps still can’t do everything, but with a little creativity the functionality gaps close up a bit. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I was able to add barcode search to the site with a simple link instead of learning to code in Objective C 🙂

Here’s a video of barcode search in action on Android:

Geolocation at ALA 2010!

Screenshot on a DroidAs I’ve mentioned before, summer is often my most productive time of the year at work. Especially when it comes to special projects. Last summer I focused on developing a mobile site, and this summer I’m looking into the potential of geolocation in websites. My ultimate goal is to mash up GIS data with our special collections and a user’s current position. I’m not there yet. But I do have a system up and running that might provide some utility at ALA in DC next week!

Here’s the site, designed for mobile devices: http://www.hiddenpeanuts.com/ala I pulled the 18 program sites out of ALA’s list of programs, and plotted them on a google map. Then it plots the user on the same map via the phone’s GPS signal. I’ve tested it on an iPhone and Android phones, but I think it should work on webkit-based Blackberries and maybe even the Palm Pre too. (Update: Turns out the Pre doesn’t support geolocation via javascript. boo, indeed!) I’d love feedback on how those devices work (or don’t).

Obviously the site won’t show you much unless you happen to be in DC while loading it up 🙂 So here’s a demo which simulates the user being in DC.

I’m very interested in any feedback on this system. I know that the interface needs (a lot of) work, but this is as good as I’m likely to have time for before ALA. I’m also open to suggestions on what details about each location would be helpful to have on the mobile site. For now it’s just address and phone number.