Free Wi-Fi is no longer a novelty. Across South Africa it’s becoming easier to turn off your data in restaurants, malls, banks and petrol stations. Local governments in Gauteng still remain the most generous provider. At 300 MB of free data per day, a committed data guzzler can save 9GB worth of data bundles every month.
In libraries, the “no phone signs” are disappearing as many realize that the combination of Wi-Fi and mobile phones are attracting new patrons. Greater visitor numbers are not the only benefit. Members of library communities, equipped with their own feature or smart phone, can learn how to make productive use of information. Many librarians recognize the need to support their local communities technology aspirations. Access to data also offers a library community a new opportunity to develop digital capacity and a route to digital inclusion.
E-books on mobile devices can be positioned as a threat to reading. My perspective is that the two compliment each other. They enable a digital reading experience. Over the last year (with generous support from the Goethe Institut), I’ve been working on a programme to enable librarians become more comfortable with working in a data rich and phone friendly library. Together, we are asking how librarians and their patrons can they take advantage of a data surplus and their own mobile devices to access e-books, audio-books, newspapers, social publishing projects and other forms of digital information.
To stimulate discussion around the changing roles of librarians and to unpack how a library user feels about these changes in a library, I’ve created a collection of cards called “shades of opinion”. Numbered 1 to 10, each card highlights a common opinion about change in a Gauteng library. The cards offer a librarian the opportunity to gauge their colleagues or library patrons opinions. The “shades of opinion” cards can be used as the basis for engagement or discussion. There’s no right or wrong answer. If you want to take this conversation online, please do, The cards are also available on Instagram. I’d be interested to hear what the various responses are.
Free Wi-Fi in libraries , in conjunction with various local content initiatives, offer a librarian a golden opportunity to work in partnership with a ubiquitous tech – the mobile phone. Check out our #mliteracy hashtag. You’ll soon be hearing much more about this topic.