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Adventures in Mobile Reference Part 1

This past Friday I left the ranks of the 12 people in North America without a cell phone and got myself an iPhone 3G. Since then I’ve had three occasions to use it in informal reference transactions.  I say informal because I wasn’t doing as part of my work duties, but they were reference type questions.

1) What real life actor played Col. Danning in the Stargate SG-1 episode “Wormhole Extreme!”? – As my Facebook friends already know, this weekend I was out camping at the Mendenhall Campgrounds here in Juneau. My wife and a friend were discussing Stargate SG-1 and were trying to remember who played the fictional “Col Danning” in the episode listed above. They both thought it was a different DeLuise sibling.  I pulled out my iPhone, looked up the Wikipedia article on Dom DeLuise to get his son’s name and then jumped to filmographies of the children. This identified Michael DeLuise as the hapless Col. Danning. Not the most elegant way to solve the problem, but it worked.

2) What was Patricia Cornwell’s first book? – This came up in the car while my wife and I were driving to work this morning. My wife makes good use of reference service. Often when she asks me to look up something while we’re commuting to work, I forget to do the request later. This morning I pulled out my iPhone and after some fumbling, connected to my library’s subscription to Novelist and got Postmortem as Ms. Cornwell’s first book, written in 1990.

3) Can you find a review of …? – Tonight we were at a local store shopping for affordable yet decent headphones. We came prepared with the last Consumer Reports issue that covered headphones (Dec 2009). As often happens in a small town, our store didn’t carry the models that Consumer Reports tested. My wife picks out a set of headphones and wonders if they’re any good. Taking out my iPhone, I bring up amazon.com for some user reviews. They’re best for people with big heads, which doesn’t fit my wife. A few reviews of other headphones later and we’re walking out with a set we’re willing to try.

Were these life or death situations? No. Was it convenient to have resources, even a subscription database, available to me in the field? Yes.

I’m sure I’ll have more of these kind of incidents. From time to time I’ll write them up. If you’re a librarian reading this, I’d like to hear your experiences in using a smartphone to provide reference service, whether or not you were officially on duty.

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