Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Does my library need mobility yet?

I don't have a smartphone or an ereader. Too expensive yet. However, the potential impact of such devices on library services may lead to me making the work/study-related expense eventually.

In the meantime I'm curious. How will mobile/smart phones influence academic libraries? Formal and informal industry literature has plenty to say (just tonight I stumbled upon  Daviess Menefee's  recap of Elsevier's 2011 Digital Libraries Symposium / Mobile technologies: Issues for libraries), but as to day-to-day experiences, I haven't seen a demand locally, yet. 

I thought I had an opportunity recently: A young man looking for a play showed me call number on the screen of his phone rather than a scrap of paper - but it was a photo of the catalogue screen.

Then again yesterday: a young lady looking for theatre books had a list on her phone - but it was a list of notes she had entered into her phone rather than write on paper.  This young lady was very kind, answering questions about her iphone and its apps, and we looked together to see whether our catalogue was configured for mobile - not.  I also quizzed her opinion on whether it would be handy.  She thought she'd be unlikely to want to use her phone to check the catalogue - she'd use her PC or come into the library.

Which reminds me of the lass for whom I found a free online version of a play (because our only copy was out) and when she took the URL mentioning that she could call it up in the session.  Did she mean phone, tablet or laptop I asked?  Laptop - she can't afford a mobile internet plan either. 

As to that symposium (back in January): Menefee reported that Joseph Murphy said "Don’t look at these applications [social recommendations, mobile photo sharing, social check-ins] in terms of enhancing library services... look at how they will influence people’s expectations for engaging with social or physical data".  Rundblad (according to Menefee) spoke about understanding the user and their context (sure and I'd love to speak to more of our patrons who use mobiles) - a vital point taking into account limited budgets, a point that Schottlaender apparently made. 

I can't help remembering my cousin and his daughter showing me how they use the internet with their mobiles.  It is easy to imagine a group of students, or even one pondering his study in some queue or otherwise out somewhere, and on the spot pulling out the mobile to follow up a thread of an idea... assuming the library even figures into their sourcepool what might they find? I want to know.


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