Public library technology is a pretty big topic, as we on the study team try to make clear all the time with people outside the library world. It’s more than a computer on a desk – it’s a fast Internet connection, it’s digital content, it’s patron technology training, and it’s library staff to maintain some or all of these components. So, we ask ourselves – and others ask us – many things that aren’t on the survey (otherwise it would be longer than it already is) and aren’t collected anywhere else (yet).
One of these questions recently is: how many libraries offer mobile Web applications? I was reminded of this question, and my inability to answer it, when I saw last Friday’s Tweet from the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. Then, later in the day, I ran across the Pew Internet & American Life Project report “The Rise of Apps Culture,” which finds that 35% of adults have cell phones with apps, but only two-thirds (or 24% of American adults) of those who have apps actually use them.
Now, there are a few places I know of that talk about the topic like “On the Move with the Mobile Web: Libraries and Mobile Technologies” (PDF) from Library Technology Reports and “There’s An App for That! Libraries and Mobile Technology: An Introduction to Public Policy Considerations” from the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (both recommended reading, and I’m sure there’s more out there), but I’d love to hear from folks here if they have an app and what their experience has been.
How is the library experience the same or different from what Michele McClellan posits for news organizations? I was most struck by this line in her post: “Apps are software that runs on mobile phones, so launching a mobile app is a software development project—which is pretty different from most other products from news organizations (including web sites).” She suggests news organizations look first to other mobile applications – including mobile web, email and texting.
(BTW, we DO know from a new question added to the survey last year that less than half (41%) of libraries do NOT offer (figure c-21) library social networking (e.g., blogs, Flixster, Goodreads) to their patrons. (Which suggests that a majority of public libraries DO offer social networking.) Who leads the pack? The Old Line State (aka Maryland) with 62% (table 114) of libraries reporting they offer this service in the library. Seventy-two percent of libraries offer digital or virtual reference, up from 58% in the 2006-2007 report.)
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