Librarians are working with telepresence robotics for various uses, particularly as a communication method inhabiting a space between video chat and face-to-face interactions. The library at Western Michigan University partnered with the Western Michigan University Communication and Social Robotics Lab to showcase this emerging technology in a high-traffic setting utilized by students of every level and major. The purpose of this paper is to discuss patron reactions to this technology exhibition in the library, beta testing of a telepresence robot in various public services tasks, and library employee attitudes toward this unfamiliar technology before and after one-on-one training.
The project gathered data through three studies. In study 1, feedback forms were filled out by patrons who interacted with or piloted the robot. In study 2, observations by the librarians piloting the robot for various public services activities were recorded in a log. In study 3, employees were invited to complete a pretest designed to solicit perceptions and attitudes regarding the use of the robot, become trained in navigating the robot, and complete a posttest for comparison purposes. Results were analyzed to find trends and highlight perceived uses for the technology.
Patrons and library employees gave positive feedback regarding the novelty of the technology and appreciated its remote communication capability. Trialed uses of the technology for public services yielded positive results when the TR was used for public relations, such as at special events or in greeting tours, and yielded less positive results when used for reference purposes. Library employees comfort with and perceived utility of the robot grew consistently across departments, levels of experience and employment types after a personal training session.
Although libraries in recent years have surveyed users regarding TR technology, this paper captures quantitative and qualitative data from a library employee training study regarding perception of the technology. Exploration of the public services uses and library employee acceptance of TR technology is valuable to those contemplating expending time and resources in similar endeavors.
WMU ScholarWorks Citation
Guth, LuMarie and Vander Meer, Patricia F., "Telepresence robotics in an academic library: A study of exposure and adaptation among patrons and employees" (2017). University Libraries Faculty & Staff Publications. 38.
Guth, L., & Vander Meer, P. (2017). Telepresence robotics in an academic library: A study of exposure and adaptation among patrons and employees. Library Hi Tech, 35(3), 408-420.