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The AALL Spectrum® blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
9/19/2014 12:47:00 PM

How to check out a book with your phone!

Coming from the public library world, I had noticed a few years ago that some public libraries had begun working technology into libraries in a unique way. They allowed their patrons to have library card information on their phones and check out items without the physical card. Working at an academic law library meant that a large number of our users (students) likely have smart phones and may jump at the chance to integrate library use with their phones.  With that in mind, we began to look into an app that could hold the library card information and still allow for a secure check-out.  To do that, we’d need an app that provided images as well as barcodes.

Enter Key Ring.

Key Ring is a free app that is designed to be a virtual wallet, holding a wide variety of card information. What we liked about it was that you could also take a picture of the front and back of the card, allowing the circulation staff to still identify the owner of the card and eliminate any identification problems. Below are some screen shots of the app in action.

Key Ring Home Page       Key Ring App Wisccard

We wrote up instructions on how to add cards and tested out the app with staff. The app was given a thumbs-up by everyone who used it. We thought we were in business…but our barcode readers couldn’t handle reading the phone or tablet screens. Here is our older barcode reader with its single line laser...


The reader worked well with physical barcodes, but wouldn’t work with LCD screens. What we needed was a reader that would read barcodes, screens and cards easily. After some work with our IT Coordinator, we determined that a LED Reader could do just that. We purchased one and tested it out with phones and tablets and it worked wonderfully. Our circulation students actually prefer the new reader to our older one…a big bonus! You can see the different laser being used in the image below. It actually is easier to scan physical barcodes with it as well.


We are now peppering our promotional materials with information about KeyRing. Signs let students know that they can “check items out with their phones.” While response hasn’t been overwhelming, there has been enough interest to deem the program a success. We are hopeful that more students will add the app as more students become even more attached to their devices. We are the first library on the University of Wisconsin campus (that I know of) to offer the ability to check out with a phone. So far, we have encountered no problems and a moderate amount of use. I like that the app gives students who may forget their Wiscard (but never their phone!) another way to check out and still allows the circulation staff a way to determine identity. In an increasingly tech-powered world, I think this is a nice service for the law library to offer. Key Ring is a free app available from both the App Store (Apple) and the Google Play Store (Android).

©Kris Turner, 2014

Reference and Technology Services Librarian

University of Wisconsin Law School Library

Madison, Wisconsin


Posted By Kris Turner at 9/19/2014 12:47:00 PM  0 Comments
7/15/2014 3:03:23 PM

AALL Session Review: F3 Making a MOOC: Instruction Beyond Boundaries

Kyle Courtney; Harvard Law Library
Loren Turner; University of Florida College of Law
Jennifer Wondracek; University of Florida College of Law (she was sick and unable to present, but contributed to the presentation)

MOOCs (Massive open online courses) are not a thing of the future or the next big thing, but are in fact happening now. This very interesting and helpful session walked us through MOOCs and the challenges that librarians face when helping create MOOCs.

Kyle spoke first about copyright and IP concerns when it comes to creating a MOOC. These large online classes present new challenges such as the challenges to fair use in a large online class. Fair Use does not quite cover 3rd party materials like it would in a traditional classroom. Syllabus readings may not be available, and ephemeral and aesthetic resources (background art and music, film clips for entertainment) are more likely to be challenged under Copyright Law. Kyle spoke at length about how he and his team of "Copyright First Responders" deal with MOOCs at Harvard. They work to gain permission from publishers to use chapters (permission is often not forthcoming) and look for open access alternatives or another article that would be on-point for the topic. Fair Use continues to play a large role in the use of materials, but this new territory means that more oversight from librarians is required. One thing that Kyle said that I really enjoyed was that "librarians are managers of legal risk when it comes to copyright", which I think is an ideal way to empower libraries and their roles in academia moving forward.

Loren then walked us through the process of actually creating a MOOC. At the beginning of the entire session, we watched two promotional videos for MOOCs that Harvard and Florida had created. The branding of the MOOCs and the obvious inclusion of librarians in their production suggested that MOOCs can be used to generate interest and use for libraries and for law schools in general. Loren had a 9 step process that she very helpfully and thoroughly went through:

1. Check university policy for MOOC creation and select the MOOC provider you want to work with.
2 Assemble committed and interested faculty. Loren emphasized the 'committed' aspect of this step.
3. Agree on course objectives and goals.
4. Create the videos, research assignments and syllabi. This step is the most involved and also provided insight to how Coursera (the MOOC company Florida worked with) creates their videos. Loren explained how there is a Coursera studio at Florida with a Green Screen and Teleprompter that makes the videos more professional.
5. Determine the Course Certificates and Satisfaction goals. Coursera, as a for-profit company, offers a level called 'signature track' for certain classes that lends more respectability to the certificate for a cost to the student.
6. Launch the Course.
7. Watch the Discussion Forums. Florida's MOOC had 72 pages (!!!) of discussion topics, so hiring student assistants to monitor and track these boards was crucial. They would forward pertinent questions to the professors.
8. Solicit student feedback. Florida's feedback was largely positive.
9. Archive the course.

Access to the resources for students across the globe has proven tricky, as economic sanctions on countries such as Iran mean Coursera must seek special permission to 'send information or services' to that country.

Kyle wrapped up by talking about how there is plenty of space for librarians of all stripes in MOOCs, whether in front or behind the camera. Law librarians are in an especially unique place, since much of the primary content is public domain, making the law MOOCS potentially easier to create and avoid some of the Copyright pitfalls.

MOOCs are an exciting and interesting recent phenomenon that show no sign of going away. I plan on taking a MOOC this summer, and would encourage others to try it out as well. While MOOCs may never replace a traditional course, they can serve as great ways to market your library or school, educate users you wouldn't normally reach, or simply create something original. I'm looking forward to trying out my MOOC, and this session certainly gave me plenty of food for thought. 

Posted By Kris Turner at 7/15/2014 3:03:23 PM  0 Comments