Cody Hanson: Highlights of the 2009 LITA Forum

By Cody Hanson |
As part of our effort to provide some perspective on the 2009 LITA Forum, we're pleased bring you this Forum wrap-up from Cody Hanson. In addition to being the author of a future issue of Library Technology Reports Cody is Technology Librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries, where he works on digital reference, Drupal, and discovery. He studies mobile technology, and is not ashamed to admit that he once owned a first-generation Nokia N-Gage.
-Dan Freeman

I'm pleased to report that the 2009 LITA National Forum last weekend  was thought-provoking and energizing (full disclosure--I'm a member of the planning committe). Some have gone further in their praise of the conference, but I'll call it a success and leave it at that.
The theme for this year's Forum was "Open and Mobile", and we on the planning committee attempted to stack the weekend with concurrent sessions and posters reflecting interesting and innovative work being done in academic and public libraries around the world in the areas of mobile services and open-source software development and implementation. 
I won't attempt to replicate the admirable work of Sean Fitzpatrick on the AL Inside Scoop blog in describing some of the keynotes and sessions. Instead, I'll just mention a few of the sessions that captured my attention. For reasons that soon will become apparent I took an especial interest in the work libraries are doing in the mobile space. The Forum provided evidence of a variety of compelling approaches.
Tony Sams from the Marriott Library at the University of Utah had a poster showcasing their plans for a full iPhone application, designed to take full advantage of the multimedia capabilities of the platform by highlighting their beautiful new facility with wayfinding tools, including 360° views of the library. It's an ambitious project that will be a real showpiece.
At the opposite end of the custom app development complexity spectrum, Leslie Adebonojo and Mark Ellis from East Tennessee State University reported on what amounts to a guerrilla effort on the part of their public services staff to provide mobile-optimized LibGuides. Absent a development staff, these resourceful librarians defined their users' needs for mobile services and took advantage of the tools they had at their disposal to create course-based guides. Compare the full version of a course guide to its mobile-optimized version.
You can find their slides (and those of many other presenters) on ALA Connect. In particular, I recommend looking at the results of their student survey, which found that students were most likely to use their mobile devices for quick reference queries, and to confirm the availability of a reading (rather than to actually read it).
Finally, I should mention the mobile application that Boopsie created for the Forum. I will cop to having been a Boopsie skeptic in the past. I found their mobile web app for this past summer's ALA Annual conference underwhelming, sluggish, and hard to navigate. I installed the native iPhone version of their application for the Forum and found it to be a remarkable improvement. It was responsive, looked great, and provided a really handy view of what sessions were scheduled at any given time. Whether these improvements are attributable to updates to Boopsie's technology since the summer, the difference between a web app and a native app, or the much more manageable set of session information for LITA Forum as compared to Annual, it added up to a very useful tool. Boopsie also had perhaps the most interesting product news that I heard at Forum.
The call for proposals for next year's Forum is available now. The conference will be in Atlanta, GA from Sept. 30-Oct. 3, 2010, and the theme will be "The Cloud and the Crowd". Hope to see you there.