"There’s an App for That!" Libraries and Mobile Technology: An Introduction to Public Policy Considerations / Timothy Vollmer
As the information revolution continues to unfold, libraries will experiment withmobile devices and services to support the information needs of their users wherever they may be. The adoption of mobile technology alters the traditional relationships between libraries and their users and introduces novel challenges to reader privacy. At the same time, the proliferation of mobile devices and services raises issues of access to information in the digital age, including content ownership and licensing, digital rights management, and accessibility. This policy brief explores some of these issues, and is intended to stimulate further community discussion and policy analysis
Enabling Libraries to Provide Expanded Services to Users
Libraries can better serve their users by embracing the growing capabilities of mobile technology. They can promote and expand their existing services by offering mobile access to their websites and online public access catalogs; by supplying on-the-go mobile reference services; and by providing mobile access to e-books, journals, video, audio books, and multimedia content.
Mobile devices and services therefore provide tremendous flexibility for those who wish to take advantage of library services. With a simple 3G connection, a user lying on a beach can access e-books and multimedia content via his or her local library. If a smartphone can always access a network, content can be continually streamed to the device over the network, providing content on demand and making it unnecessary to maintain a local copy of the material. By going mobile, then, a library takes a giant step toward becoming a round-the-clock service.
Box 1. Mobile Library Services
Libraries can provide a wide array of mobile services to interested users:
•• Mobile online public access catalogs (OPACs)—Libraries are providing access to their OPACs via mobile-optimized websites. The New York Public Library Mobile Beta site supports a mobile OPAC and allows users to browse library locations and hours (see http://m.nypl.org/).
•• Mobile applications—Some libraries have developed mobile applications for smartphones. The District of Columbia Public Library, for example, has developed an iPhone application that includes a mobile OPAC and the ability to place items on hold, and also provides information on hours and locations of local libraries (see http://dclibrarylabs.org/projects/iphone/).
•• Mobile collections—Third-party content providers are partnering with libraries to deliver audiobooks, e-books, audio language courses, streaming music, films, images, and other multimedia that can be used on mobile devices. The Overdrive service is supported on numerous mobile devices and has developed an application for BlackBerry smartphones (see http://www.overdrive.com). Duke University has created a free iPhone application called DukeMobile, containing a wealth of information on digital library resources, including extensive access to the library’s digital photo archive and other collections (see http://itunes.apple.com/app/dukemobile/id306796270?mt=8).
•• Mobile library instruction—Some libraries are offering library instructional materials and resources via mobile platforms. For example, East Carolina University’s “Research First Aid” is a series of podcasts for library researchers on the go (see http://www.ecu.edu/cs-dhs/laupuslibrary/researchfirstaid.cfm).
•• Mobile databases—PubMed for Handhelds is a mobile web portal for the National Library of Medicine (see http://pubmedhh.nlm.nih.gov/).
•• Library Short Message Service (SMS) notifications—Many libraries use SMS for a variety of purposes, including notification for items available for pickup, due date reminders, information on availability of library materials, provision of call numbers and locations, and others (see http://cpl.org/?q=node/12258).
•• SMS Reference—Some libraries are offering “text-a-librarian” services ideal for simple questions that can be answered with a brief response (see http://www.library.yale.edu/science/textmsg.html).
Conclusions and Recommendations
Mobile technology holds great promise for enabling libraries to provide enhanced services in a form users increasingly are demanding. If this promise is to be fully realized, however, libraries will need to conduct analyses and make smart decisions to address the issues outlined above, support staff education and explore partnerships and new funding models, and be prepared to compromise with respect to their traditional information delivery models.
ALA Office Of Information Technology Policy / Policy Brief No. 3, June 2010 / 18 pp.
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!!! Thanks To Gary Price / ResourceShelf / For The HeadsUp !!!