The library experience of today is greatly different from that of even 15 years ago, and mobile technology is the leading contributor to these changes. In response, public and college libraries are using mobile technology to increasingly enhance the user experience. By embracing the many growing capabilities of mobile technologies, libraries provide better service to their users in many different ways. Here are just some of those ways.
Optimizing for Mobile Technology
The growing trend of mobile optimization involves creating one app for all devices, where a website or web application responds to a user’s screen size. For libraries, this means OPACs (Online Public Access Catalogs) are usable and viewable on any device, including tablets and smartphones. An American Library Association study from 2010 found that 66 percent of libraries offered eBooks to patrons, up more than 10 percent from the year prior, and mobile optimization allows users to read downloaded books across their devices.
Using Mobile Applications and Catalogues
As the percentage of users who access the Internet from mobile devices grows, libraries are working to catch up and optimize their services for mobile technology. Many libraries, including the Boston Public Library, the District of Columbia Public Library, and the Duke University libraries, have mobile library catalogues and smartphone applications. Where library patrons used to visit the library to search for, borrow, renew, or reserve a book, they can now do so from the comfort of their own home, bus seat, or office. Some library mobile apps have other exciting capabilities as well, like the option to book meeting rooms.
Implementing Mobile Library Instruction
In 2011, the University of Utah’s Marriott Library launched a QR code project where users could take a photo of a posted QR code and receive valuable information like library maps, upcoming events, and new book releases from the library. QR codes for libraries encourage users to find out more information about events and programming, leading to better and more easily accessible library instruction.
Creating New Services
Ever thought, “I wish I could text a librarian to help me with this paper”? Well, now you can. Colleges and universities across the country have implemented “Ask-A-Librarian” services to help their library users wherever they might be. Cornell University offers a number that anyone can use to text during business hours, and Northeastern University offers 24/7 chat options. This SMS technology allows immediate contact and help with the tap of a few keys.
Becoming Social Media Butterflies
Got a great photo from the top floor of the Seattle Public Library? Want to express gratitude for the helpful University librarian who saved you in the hours before a final paper was due? Libraries and librarians have taken to social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter to interact and share with their users. Gone are the days of librarians saying “Shhh!” Today, they love to interact.
While many worry or believe that libraries will become obsolete due to mobile technology, libraries and librarians are using technology to improve the college and public library experience. As mobile technology continues to grow and change, so do our libraries.
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