Category Archives: Smart phones

Hooray! Your Library’s a Pokéstop!


The North Dakota State Library is a Pokéstop and your library likely is, too!

Guest post by Shari Mosser, ND State Library

I wanna be the very best. Like no one ever was!

Lately, you might have seen random people outside your library – singly or in groups. The people range in age, background and lifestyles. The only thing in common is that they are usually holding a phone in front of their face. Sometimes they congregate for a half hour or so and then walk (or drive/bike) away. Others will just keep walking by or abruptly switch directions with excited looks on their faces.

These people are probably playing the new, popular, free-to-play game called Pokémon GO! It is so popular it is on the verge of overtaking the daily number of users that are on Twitter. Pokémon GO uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where you are in the game (so real world locations!) and make little “monsters” appear around you. As you move around, different Pokémon appear depending on where you are and what time it is.

The idea of the game is to encourage exploration and travel (i.e. walking) in the real world making it an augmented reality (AR) game. Players actually have to go to the physical location to play. This game is what players have dreamed about since Pokémon came out in the late 90’s. The idea that Pokémon are real and inhabit our world is very enticing.

An Augmented Reality Pidgey lurking in our stacks

An Augmented Reality Pidgey lurking in our stacks.

The game also transforms local landmarks and businesses into Pokéstops and Gyms. Most likely your library is a Pokéstop in the world. This is where players come to refill their necessary supplies (like Pokéballs and other items). Reach out to those players by advertising that you are a stop! Let the players know they can refill and collect valuable Eggs.

Or, you can play along! Then you can set up your stop to lure Pokémon. This means you put out an item (in game) that will increase the amount of Pokémon at your Pokéstop. These Pokémon then can be seen and caught by any player nearby. Use it during a typically slow period of your day to get more foot traffic, and then use your creativity to turn them into a library patron! Drop a lure before your summer reading program as a lead in to your event. Make sure to advertise your lure beforehand to increase participation.

The popularity of this game is exploding. Make that impact a positive one by embracing the game and its players. Pokémon GO could be a memorable experience for you and your patrons!

Now, I’m off to find Mew!

Pokémon, (gotta catch them all) it’s you and me
I know it’s my destiny
Pokémon, oh, you’re my best friend
In a world we must defend

Affordable VR for Fun and Library Programming


The promise of Virtual Reality (VR) has never really panned out the way pundits expected it would, but it remains an intriguing niche technology that often totters precariously close to mainstream acceptance. The Oculus Rift is the latest headline-grabber, but, it remains overpriced and (in my opinion) underwhelming.

Recently, there a new market emerged in open source cardboard enclosures that combine your smartphone and a pair of biconvex lenses to produce the first truly entry-level and easily accessible VR set. The best in class (if that term is even appropriate for something made of cardboard you wear on your face) seems to be the Dodocase.

There was a large of stack of these for sale when I was in Barnes and Noble last night, and they run about $25/each (you may be able to find some cheaper online). It’s worth noting that at this point there are only a handful of VR apps in either the Android or iPhone market, but all the ones I’ve found are free and fun to play around with. If you’re feeling ambitious, there’s Developer Documentation on the Google Cardboard site, to assist in programming your own Android apps.

A few caveats before you get started: a little DIY hacking is in order if you wish your raw cardboard headset to remain sturdy and hospitable and approximate the comfortable accommodation of human heads. Using some electrical tape, felt pads, or Sugru to shield contact points is a great idea, not just for comfort, but also because cardboard is easily besmirched in gross unsightly ways by our sweat exuding noggins.

That being said, you will not find an easier, cheaper, or more user-friendly approach to VR on the market, and I could definitely see patrons coming in to try it out if presented with the opportunity. Good luck and if you do try it out, I’d love to hear about your experiences with it!

Teen Book Finder App from YALSA

Logo for YALSA's Teen Book Finder appEver have trouble finding or recommending good young adult fiction? Pined for a tool that could guide your tech-focused teens to great reads and help them share the experience through Twitter and Facebook? Look no further than the Teen Book Finder app from the Young Adult Library Services Association.

The app combines several useful functions. It recommends three featured titles each day; provides the ability to search for books by author, title, award, genre, and more; uses the OCLC WorldCat Search API to locate nearby libraries that own a desired book; lets users mark their favorites and create booklists; and allows for easy social sharing through Twitter and Facebook integration.

As you may have guessed, this app won’t just be useful for your current (and potential) patrons. Library staff will be able to make use of it for collection development purposes, as it’s an easy way to find new, topical, and/or award-winning YA titles.

The app is free and is now available on both Android and iOS platforms (download links below).

Google Play

iTunes App Store


If You are Online, Someone is Tracking You

Tracking2No online space should be considered safe. Internet service and phone providers, media research firms, online stores, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, the NSA, are tracking your online activity. Websites sell data about its members to other companies.  None of this is illegal because it is disclosed in the fine print of service agreements, which few of us ever read.  Indiscriminate tracking is now a fact of online activity.

Before computers, it was time consuming and expensive to track individuals. Technology has made it simple, immediate, and cheap to keep records of various kinds on our lives. Small, powerful devices like smart phones and tablets combined with massive computing power and cheap storage has resulted in our personal data and our locations being indiscriminately tracked. Our online browsing is being watched by advertisers and data brokers.

Information is power. Those who have access to our personal data have power over us. Indiscriminate access to our data can embarrass us, rob us, and even accuse us of criminal behavior. Analysis of this glut of data is often conducted by mathematical algorithms, devoid of human editors. This can create a culture of fear and broken trust. We should all be concerned about privacy.

New technology has brought benefits and hazards. We can’t let the dangers of online activity prevent us from using technology. We need safe online spaces for ourselves and our children.

Source: Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance by Julia Angwin, Henry Holt and Company, 2014.

 “Stories help people cope with complexity.” – Peter Schwartz, author


Cellular Telephone and Broadband Internet service Essential to Rural Youth

CellPhoneThe 2013 Rural Youth Telecommunications Survey was conducted between January and April. The survey respondents were 60% female, and nearly 75% were 19 years old or younger. More than 90% have an Internet connection in their home.

Rural youth see their cell phones as much more than a means of voice communications and are intrinsically attached to them. They also use their cell phones for texting, taking pictures, shopping, surfing the Web, social networking, playing games, downloading music, watching videos, or homework. The cell phone is an expression of lifestyle and an extension of themselves.

Mobile cell service and broadband Internet are critical to today’s youth; they do not want to be shackled to a fixed location to access services. The majority of survey respondents indicated that they will only live where cellular telephone and broadband Internet are available. Libraries and businesses take note: design your websites, products, and services to be accessible to a mobile generation.

“Have you ever noticed? Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a moron.” – George Carlin


Smart Phones are Programming Us: Driving and Texting

A  study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed that text messaging while driving made the risk of an accident 23 times as high as non-distracted driving. Forty-one states have outlawed texting while driving. Most people realize that texting and driving don’t mix but do it anyway. Why? For many drivers, texting has become a habit, a compulsion, an addiction.


Psychology and communications experts are trying to determine what is happening in our brains when we grab our phones while driving.  A trigger like the phone ringing or buzzing is hard to resist and we are rewarded when we respond. Habits are formed when we do something so often that it becomes automatic. Reaching for the phone might be part of a complex array of emotions, not a rational decision. Research into texting has shown that the modern smart phone is programming us, changing our behavior. The new technology is tapping into some very basic human instincts, like the need to connect with others and the need to satisfy human curiosity.

Some researchers think that it is not possible to just turn off these habits when we are driving. Like the smoker who kicks the smoking habit, those who text and drive must learn strategies to change their behavior. Driving is a visual task; anything that interrupts our eyes on the road is a potential risk to you and others.

“Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”  — H. L. Mencken

Introducing the BARD App for iOS

bard app iconThe National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has released a new app for iOS, which will facilitate mobile access to braille and talking books from NLS’s Braille and Audio Download (BARD) service.

With the mobile app, patrons registered  with the North Dakota Talking Books library or another NLS cooperating braille and talking book library can play talking books from BARD on iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. With a Bluetooth-enabled device connected to a refreshable braille display, patrons can also read BARD’s collection of braille materials. BARD contains a total of nearly 50,000 books, magazines, and music scores in both audio and braille formats.

For more information in North Dakota, contact our Talking Book Service. They’ll explain program eligibility, help eligible North Dakotan’s get registered for the talking book service and BARD, and can help registered iOS users get started with the BARD app.

How is Technology Used in Today’s Classroom?

How Teachers are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms is a PEW Research Center survey of American middle and high school teachers. 95% of the teachers who participated in the survey teach in public schools.

The survey finds that digital devices are becoming essential in the learning process. 73% of the teachers say that they let students use smart phones in the classroom for assignments. However, these new technologies have also created new challenges for teachers, both in how they are used and who gets to use them.

The digital divide deprives many students and teachers of basic digital access to educational resources. There is disparity in access between lower and higher income students and school districts. There is also disparity in access from school versus access from home.


There are generational differences in how teachers experience digital technologies. It is not surprising that teachers under age 35 are more confident with using these devices than teachers age 55 and older.

Teachers expressed concern that students are losing basic research skills because of an overreliance on search engines.  Students “equate research with Googling” and are less likely to use traditional resources. Few students browse the library stacks for research projects. Only 12% of teachers say their students will use printed books in a research assignment. View the survey for many more teacher insights on how technology fits into today’s classroom.

“My favorite librarian is one who gave me a conspiratorial wink when she caught me sneaking out of the children’s room and into the adult stacks at the grand age of eight.” — Dave Donelson, Author