The Mobile Library

The term ‘Mobile library’ once referred to a vehicle that delivered books to towns too remote or too small to support their own branch library. Now ‘mobile library’ is more likely to bring to mind the digital equivalent: the library app that is accessible on mobile devices.

Having library services that can be accessed with mobile devices is a significant current trend in library technologies. A 2013 article by Mark Rogowsky The PC Is Dying, The Only Question Is How Fast provides a dramatic commentary on the rise of the mobile device at the expense of the desktop computer. As of 2014, The Pew Research Centre’s Mobile Technology Fact Sheet gives American phone statistics at 90% for mobile phone ownership, 64 % for smart phone ownership and 42% for tablet ownership.

A 2014 article Research and discovery functions in mobile academic libraries (Library Hi Tech, 33(1), 32-40) by Catherine Bomhold puts smartphone ownership at 79% for young adults. According to Bomhold’s article, which conducted a survey of mobile devices in academic libraries, students rated a functional mobile library app as “very/extremely important to school success”. With these statistics and our increasingly tech savvy student population in mind, creating a mobile app should be one of our top priorities in our technology plan.

Library anywhere, created by LibraryThing for Libraries, is a technology that can transform the current catalogue into a site accessible by mobile users. Compatible with both Android and Apple devices, it syncs with the library catalogue so that it remains identical even as items are added or deleted. It can do all of the things patrons can do on the current catalogue, for example, search the catalogue, place holds, and view borrower history.

While it is free for patrons to download the app, one negative is that the app can be difficult for patrons to find. It will be under “library anywhere” in the app store, rather than under the libraries name. Libraries also have to pay to use the service. However, with a free trial available, this site seems like an excellent first step to making our library mobile accessible. The library anywhere could provide us with a fast and efficient way to provide our students with mobile functionality without having to invest time and funds into building our own app.

With a large proportion of our student population working extramurally and far from our physical campus, it is important that we develop a website that will work on the devices that they use most. With the library anywhere service, geographically distant patrons could have our services in their pockets, with today’s version of the ‘mobile library’ providing information accessibility just as bookmobiles did in the past.

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