Personal Information Devices

It appears that the servers are back up, activations are going smoothly (albeit slowly), and one million happy consumers are now packing an iPhone 3G.

Business types and technophiles have been using Blackberry devices, Treos, and other types of smartphones for awhile now, but I think the iPhone has perhaps been the most successful at generating glamorous, mass-market appeal. And no wonder! The device has a very sleek, refined GUI, great graphics, and a very functional web browser.

E-mail? Check!
Photos? Check!
Surf the Internet? Check!
And with the app store, users can now do even more with their phones.

This reminds me of Michael Stephens’ keynote address at the 2007 Library 2.0 Summit at Mississippi State University. During his address, Michael showed us a typical no-cell-phones-in-the-library sign (such as this one). Although this is standard in many, many libraries, it sends a strangely mixed message to library users. We have an up-and-coming generation of users for whom the cell phone is their primary information device. Some of these people use their cell phones more than than they use desktop or laptop computers. Then we have libraries – chock full of information and just waiting for an opportunity to share all of these great resources with their users. But we tell these same users that their primary information device is not welcome amongst our information. Oh the irony.

I think most reasonable people would agree that the typical, loud cell phone conversation would be better held outside the library. But the signs don’t say “no loud talking.” They say “no cell phones in the library,” or sometimes “turn your phone off while you’re in the library.” The effect then, is that our users can’t check homework assignments with their phones, they can’t search our resources with their phones, they can’t take research notes with their phones . . .

Maybe it’s time for libraries to rethink their positions on cell phones.