The recently released 2011-2012 Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study (PLFTAS) contains a wealth of information and insights on public library funding and technology applications and uses. Of the many interesting findings, public library use of mobile technology offers a glimpse of “things to come.” Indeed, public libraries need to plan NOW for how to employ these applications in THEIR libraries.
Figure C-17 “Public Library Systems Use of Mobile Technology” from the 2011-2012 PLFTAS shows that overall:
• 14.2% of respondents indicated that the library’s website is optimized for mobile device access;
• 7.2% of respondents said that the library has developed smartphone apps for access to library services and content;
• 11.8% of respondents said that the library uses scanned codes for access to library services and content; and
• 72.7% responded that the library does not make use of mobile technologies.
In all responses, urban libraries had more use and deployment of mobile technology than rural libraries.
The survey questions in the PLFTAS do not provide detailed data on the types of mobile apps being developed in public libraries. Nonetheless, a taste of possible mobile apps that may be of interest to the public can be found at the Mobile (AL) Public Library. A key question here, however, is the degree to which the public can replace public library resources and services with these apps or the extent to which public librarians can create apps that “add value” to public library services and resources.
WebJuction and ALA TechSource held a July 25 webinar on “Bridging the Digital Divide with Mobile Services.” Especially useful were discussions on why mobile services are important to libraries and offering real life examples of mobile services. The instructor, Andromeda Yelton, is the author of the January 2012 edition of Library Technology Reports on the same topic.
A July 23 ALA webinar on the topic “Introducing the Book as iPad App” presents how the boundaries of the book are being stretched with a hybrid mix in elements of film, videogames, and social media with the text traditional to the book. This program is another inroad to better understand the expanding world of library apps. The instructor, Nicole Henning, has a number of resources that are worth reviewing regarding uses and applications for apps. Although the site is academic library oriented, many of the topics can be translated into a public library context.
The results of a March 2012 Pew Research Center survey points to the importance of expanding use of mobile technologies. Nearly half (46%) of American adults own smartphones, and nearly every major demographic group experienced a notable uptick in smartphone market penetration over the last year. A number of folks agree with Dale Lee King, Topeka and Shawnee County (KS) Public Library, that (www.davidleeking.com, April 5, 2012):
“If you haven’t yet started building with mobile in mind, now is definitely the time to start – you are very close to alienating almost half your customers. They are interacting with their favorite sites online using their smartphone (think Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, etc.).”
San Diego Public Library also offers some interesting apps, and it is likely many other libraries also offer such apps. The move to hand held devices and use of mobile apps has been amazing and looks to continue expanding significantly. Is the public library community ready for this next challenge? What is your library developing or planning in the area of mobile apps? Let us hear from you.
Dr. McClure is the President of Information Management Consultant Services, LLC, firstname.lastname@example.org