Is there a librarian in the vicinity? Geosocial Reference Services

March 11, 2009, 11:48 am

I have been dabbling with two apps on my phone: Loopt and WhosHere. These programs allow you to create a profile and then see other people who are nearby and have the software installed on their phones too. I created a very librarian-centric profile and put it out there to see what would happen.

In two weeks I received four messages:

  1. One was from someone unaffiliated with the school asking me to explain the Dewey System. He was joking around. DDS seems to be a favorite comedic theme for non-librarians. We then spoke (texted) about the “death” of print newspapers for about 15 minutes.
  2. One was from a student asking me why the library closed on Saturday night.
  3. One was from a student asking why he had to log-in all the time to get eJournals, even though he was on the campus wireless connection.
  4. One was from a random person asking me “what’s up?”

All and all, not terribly successful, yet not a total bust. Two weeks isn’t really enough time to judge this little experiment. If anything, it shows that people are willing to contact a librarian who pops up on their screen. They might not be asking about tracking down citations but comments about service hours and proxy access are valuable. It’s a good start.

Geosocial networking or location-based networking services are on the rise. I read about them years ago in Europe and Japan. They seem to be very dating-driven right now in the US– just like Friendster & Myspace started out– people looking for companionship, but the potential for wider social interactions is possible. It is too early to tell if they are worthwhile for librarians. They have not caught on wildly yet with students, at least Georgia Tech students; the most that I’ve seen online during the day have been 10 students, but what happens when/if that number grows to 100 or 1,000? We’re heading into Spring Break next week, but I’m going to continue using these services through the rest of the semester. We’ll see if anyone else takes notices of the librarian among them.

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