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June 23, 2014 / carlispina

CALI Conference 2014: Technology Legos

Last week, the Harvard Law School Library hosted the 2014 CALI Conference and I was fortunate to be able to attend several sessions. One of the sessions that I attended was focused on the University of Tennessee’s experience creating technology that meets their needs rather than purchasing standard products. Entitled Technology Legos: Snapping RaspberryPi, Arduino, 3D printers, Phidgets and More Into The Next Wave of Technological Innovations, this presentation brought home the degree to which a do-it-yourself mentality can serve a library well.

The presentation started with a description of their work setting up video recording capabilities in the library’s existing study rooms. Using a combination of pieces, including a power over ethernet (POE) camera, a card scanner, an Arduino board, a touch screen, and a 3D printed case, they were able to set up a recoding studio that allowed them to limit use to law students, while also ensuring that students would have quick access to their finished recordings. After recording finishes, their system allows students to have automatic access to the finished product within minutes. They have also added the ability to use closed captioning capabilities to include comments on the video that are tied to a specific time in the presentation. Though the process of building these tools and writing the software for them might seem overwhelming, the entire process took only about 4 months and each video recording system cost only about $150, making this a very cost-effective way to offer high tech services on a limited budget.

The presenters also discussed their work creating digital signage using a Rasberry Pi system. This again was an example of a system that they created themselves so that it could be customized to their exact needs. Using iBeacon, they plan to offer students the ability to have relevant information pushed directly to their personal device from the school’s digital signage system. As an added bonus, they were even able to reuse some old library shelves so that the casing for each digital sign matches the school’s woodwork exactly.

While not all libraries will have the staff to undertake these types of projects, this session was an interesting look at one library’s approach to saving money while still offering their patrons a very high-tech and customized experience. Video of the entire presentation will be available in the coming days on the CALICon website and the presenters mentioned that they would be happy to share their files and code with interested librarians.

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