Mobile Internet Services and their implication on libraries

Today I had a presentation in Bad Hersfeld, at a library congress (Hessischer Bibliothekstag 2012) about mobiles and their implication on libraries. My presentation in German is published on Slideshare.

At first I lined out some trends that show how important mobile internet usage has become. And the way internet resources are used has changed basically with smartphones and tablets. The browser used to be the main way to get access to online information. Mobile apps and web apps use information on the internet in a direct way.  Mobile users want to get fast access to the information they need. That means for libraries that their websites should be optimized for mobile access. You have to ask, what users are interested in when they are on the way. Of course, they need a mobile version of the OPAC with access to their user account and the possibility to research for information and to order and loan books. Unfortunately services offered by publishers are difficult to be integrated into a mobile library webpage. You hardly find mobile friendly ebook services. Some publishers offer native apps, which have their own interface to search for information (mainly articles). There are also mobile web apps, but libraries can only link to these services from their mobile webpage. I don’t see how these resources could be integrated into a mobile library service at the moment.

I talked also about mobile internet services that have a great impact on user expectations. Libraries can adopt some of these methods, for example location aware services. You can register your library and its locations in Google Places and integrate Google Maps into the mobile website. So it’s possible to find the location of a branch library and get the information how to get there from the place you are at this moment.  Another interesting technology is QR-codes in order to link from a print information to the virtual world.

Creating a mobile version of the library’s homepage seems very important to me. If you create one you have to consider some special requirements. Reduce the information as much as possible. Mobile users don’t want to browse and scroll through a lot of background information. They are interested in opening hours, locations and maybe news from the library. At ETH-Bibliothek we added a list with mobile websites of publishers (mobile friendly resources) and mobile versions of its presence on social networks to these basic informations. And like mentioned above, the main function is that of a fully integrated mobile catalogue. See also my blog post in German.

Finally I also mentioned ebooks and how they can be used with mobile devices. In academic libraries where PDF is the format in which ebooks are offered, only tablets and notebooks can be recommended for mobile access. Tablets give also the opportunity to work with these documents (for example with GoodReader on the iPad). But on smartphones and e-reader documents in PDF format are not really user friendly. For these small screens you needed ebooks in EPUB format, but these are hardly available with academic content.

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