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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Telepresence Librarian in University Libraries

A telepresence robot will soon be roaming Waldo Library, providing mobile research help to patrons. The robot is part of a collaboration between University Libraries and the Communication and Social Robotics Labs (CSRL).

The CSRL were founded in 2013 as a partnership with the School of Communication at Western Michigan University and University of Kentucky. Their research focuses on human-robot interactions, and interpersonal communication mediated by telepresence robots. The robot in Waldo Library will be experimental and aid in research on interactions between students and librarians when mediated by the telepresence robot.

Librarian Pat Vander Meer said, “This collaboration will allow us to learn more about the technology and its use for research and instruction services.”

“Telepresence robots are beginning to show up in organizational and educational settings. These robots can help facilitate social interaction when there is physical distance between people,” said Dr. Autumn Edwards, who is leading the CSRL. She continued, “Libraries are large, intricate, and sometimes intimidating spaces in which having easy access to assistance may really benefit users. We’ll be watching how our 'roaming librarians' and users of the library are able to navigate their interactions with one another.”

In addition, students will have the opportunity to test drive the telepresence robot on weekends. This will allow students to experience the robot firsthand, and understand robotic communication in greater detail.  The test drive sessions are on Saturdays, 1-3 p.m. and Sundays 4-6 p.m., Oct. 10 – Nov. 29, 2015.

May Chang, Associate Dean, Libraries IT, is excited about the collaboration, “We are creating a learning and discovery environment in Waldo Library, and the telepresence robot showcases an innovative technology for communication and mediated interactions.”

For more information, contact Dr. Autumn Edwards (autumn.edwards@wmich.edu), or May Chang (may.chang@wmich.edu).