HKU puts library in users' hands

HONG KONG (10/09/2003) - The University of Hong Kong Libraries (HKU Libraries) on Monday launched the first wireless-LAN (WLAN) application for accessing library resources and services through Palm Inc.'s handheld devices.

Named MyLibrary@Hand, the WLAN application enables up to 700,000 registered library users to search more than two million books and 25,000 journals, and perform other research functions, directly from their Wi-Fi enabled Palm's Tungsten C handhelds.

"My Library@Hand has revolutionized the traditional concept of a library," said Anthony Ferguson, librarian, HKU Libraries. "Researchers are no longer restricted to being physically in the library."

Without having to step into the libraries, users can send requests and questions by e-forms, access event calendars, library research guides, library contacts and databases, said Ferguson.

He added, previously it would take around 30 minutes for students to search three different databases using the library PCs. Now the same search can be conducted in only 30 seconds using the Tungsten C handheld from any Wi-Fi location.

Ferguson noted that the application enhances efficiency in the learning process and saves students' time by providing users with greater mobility and flexibility when accessing library resources and services.

Built on the Palm operating system (OS), MyLibrary@Hand is a joint effort between HKU Libraries and solution integrator Syracuse International Limited. It is built on HKU's existing campus-wide wireless-LAN, making it a cost-effective way to achieve the mobile environment it needed.

In the second phase of the deployment, the application will include features like an expanded resource database, which will roll out in December 2003. This feature allow users to reserve and recall library materials via Wi-Fi enabled Tungsten C handhelds, view more detailed journal abstracts and full-text versions of electronic journals, and access the library Web site offline.

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