Using Mobile Devices & OCR to Discover Library Resources and Research Tools

Students are savvy users of their mobile devices, and thanks to a Illinois Campus Research Board grant, Jim Hahn will research the ways that first-year students use these devices to find library resources. Also, he will build a software application for mobile devices to address students’ research needs.  In particular, Hahn will seek to understand and build a mobile application that supports optical character recognition (OCR) for the discovery of appropriate and course-related library content.

Jim Hahn

Jim Hahn

Hahn, an Associate Professor at the Undergraduate Library, is the Orientation Services & Environments Librarian.  He is taking a leading role in developing mobile applications that serve patrons’ use of the University Library. According to Hahn, the aims of this study are “understanding how to move libraries beyond the mobile accessible online catalog,” and secondly “understanding what are useful and used mobile applications in library settings.” The dynamic interface of mobile devices enables functionality that can serve students’ research needs. Hahn seeks to uncover some of the ways that these needs and technological possibilities can come together in the development of a mobile application aimed at first-year students.

By focusing on OCR, the new application will allow students to scan an assignment sheet with a smart phone first.  The application will read the document and  then check a suggested database to identify library resources that will support the assignment.  The course reserves for the class and other relevant sources of data, including research databases, will be suggested on the students’ phone or other mobile devices.  The student can then email this information to themselves, a student group or save the information to other social networking platforms.

The Illinois Campus Research Board grant will support a research assistant and needed supplies.  The University Library looks forward to the outcomes of Jim’s research!


Project Title:  “Applied Research in First-Year Undergraduate Student Support with Optical Character Recognition in Mobile Software Applications”
Grant Award from: Illinois Campus Research Board, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Award Amount:
$22,800
Length of grant: 12 months

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