Academic libraries are high-traffic and have begun incorporating technology to showcase and encourage student use. Consequently, the academic library is a good place to experience telepresence robot technology and offer a safe setting for students to explore how it works and its potential. Students should become familiar with the technology as they are likely to encounter it later in their careers and librarians can explore how it could impact services.
In fall 2015 the WMU Communications and Social Robotics Lab approached the Library to form a partnership to train students on the robot and look for applications in the Library. Students were invited to learn how to drive the robot, and feedback data on human-robot interaction and suggestions for use were collected. Members of the Research and Instruction Services team at Waldo Library were early adopters in testing and collecting feedback on the uses and reactions to a telepresence "roving librarian." Additionally, a training study was conducted in which library employees were surveyed before and after training on their perceptions including their comfort level with the robot, utility of the robot in library and educational settings, and how difficult it would be to use the technology.
Despite the possibilities of the technology, there is sometimes a natural discomfort with human-robot communication and the adoption of technology at an early point in its life cycle. We will present our research in this area and discuss best practices in presenting robots to library communities.
After reviewing the literature on telepresence robots in libraries we believe that while others look at possible uses and limitations of the technology we offer unique quantitative data on student and library employee perceptions of the robot and on it's adoption in libraries. This project is an example of a collaborative endeavor between the library and another campus department.