Link to Western Michigan University HomepageWestern Michigan University bannerLink to Library Homepage

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Telepresence Robot Collaboration with University of Bologna

Waldo Library is entering the second semester of collaboration with the Communication and Social Robotics Labs, experimenting with telepresence robots in Waldo Library.

"We are in the middle of a research study in which we are gathering library faculty, staff, and students' attitudes toward using telepresence robot technology." said Pat Vander Meer, a librarian who has been working closely with the robot.

Recently, the robot reached beyond Western Michigan University to the University of Bologna, where a PhD candidate is conducting research on academic libraries development in institutions of higher education and research. Lynn Kleinveldt is a faculty librarian in Applied Sciences and Health & Wellness Sciences at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, South Africa. She is pursuing a PhD in Philosophy, Science, Cognition, and Semiotics at the University of Bologna, Italy, the oldest university in Europe.

Kleinveldt was excited to have the opportunity to experiment with robotics in a library setting. After a brief training by an IT student assistant, she drove the robot and interacted with students as well as a tour group that came to visit the library. “It was a great experience to tour the library using the robot and explore how international collaboration can enhance reference services for the benefit of users. This innovative initiative extends information and research support beyond the boundaries of its parent institutions,” said Kleinveldt.

Kleinveldt on the telepresence robot, with a tour group in Waldo Library.
She also stated, “the aim is not to replace the academic librarian with robotics, but that this technology complements the new role of the librarian. Through robot technology, academic librarians can now extend their services and expertise from virtually anywhere.”

May Chang, Associate Dean for Libraries IT, said, “This is a good example of University Libraries’ global engagement. Social robotics such as the telepresence robot enabled us to communicate and interact at a level not possible with the telephone or video chat.”

The robot is used on weekends to greet tour groups, and weekend test drives of the robot will continue in the Spring 2016 semester.

Read more about the Communication and Social Robotics Labs work with University Libraries.