Technology Trends: Adapting the Library for Mobile Users

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  • Kim, B. (2013). The present and future of the library mobile experience. Library Technology Reports, 29(6), 15-28.
  • Zimerman, M. (2011). E-readers in an academic library setting. Library Hi Tech, 29(1), 91-108.

Between circulating mobile devices and designing web apps and mobile friendly websites, libraries both have a long history with mobile devices and are currently seeking ways to better improve the experiences of users with mobile devices. Kim mentions how some libraries develop their own websites and apps, but because this process is costly and lengthy, most libraries simply utilize services designed out of house. DC Libraries was one of the examples of an institution that uses an in-house design. But it doesn’t stop at the website shell. For many academic libraries in particular, the databases are a significant part of their online offerings. Ensuring that database information systems support mobile search and browse is crucial. Because mobile platforms are generally not as detailed as desktop centric sites, the placement, visual layout, and size of icons and menus lends itself to a positive user experience. Also, the order within menus can help to direct users in their search for information, by making popular destinations the most obvious. With mobile devices being increasingly more sophisticated, as well as designed with greater speed, memory, and connection services, the range of activities patrons can undertake from a mobile device has developed. Planning for library services and web offerings should take this into consideration.

Along the same lines, library users have come to expect greater integration of electronic readers. Many public libraries support the download (or temporary download) of e-books through external vendors, such as Overdrive. Because of complications with vendors, licensing, and rights, academic libraries lag behind in this area. For libraries that do offer e-books, the format and appearance, as well as ease of use, tends to differ from one vendor to another. This leaves patrons without a real consistency and dissatisfied. Given the amount of reading that students in academic settings are required to perform, the cost of books and the physical challenge of transporting these materials around makes the possibility of e-books attractive. However, many e-books and electronic formats of books as available in academic libraries either do not allow for download of content to personal devices or to do so would be extremely cumbersome. Digital Rights Management (DRM) prevents copying and creating duplicates of electronic content files. Finding ways to work around these restrictions is something libraries have not yet accomplished. The struggle for open access and flexible content to support research needs is something that is ongoing. Right now, e-books are still entrenched in the for-profit tug of war between vendors, publishers, libraries, and users. There seems for be hope of future development, but right now it’s still slow moving.

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