Not long ago, information work was performed in a fixed location, like a library or office. Then the term “PC” morphed as an acronym for Personal Computer into Portable Computer. Portability became even easier with smartphones and tablets. Remote servers have expanded to the “cloud” and wireless internet access has become available wherever you find civilization.
This very condensed timeline brings us to the fourth of five necessary skill sets we have identified for today’s librarian – Comfort and familiarity with the mobile environment in which information is searched and consumed.
Mobile Library Services
Library Journal conducted a Mobile Libraries Survey in 2010 and found that 44% of academic libraries and 34% of public libraries offered some type of mobile services to their customers, with roughly 40% planning to add mobile services in the near future. Services might include:
- Text messaging for reference services and notifications.
- Websites and online catalogs with responsive design to accommodate easy viewing on mobile devices.
- Improved mobile access to databases, ebook content, digital collections and other library information and assistance.
- Development of library iPhone and Android apps.
- Virtual and augmented reality tours to libraries and place-based collections.
- Self-service tools such as QR codes and device circulation.
- Greater use of mobile-ready social media like Twitter and Facebook as other touch points.
Mobile Technology Devices and Platforms
The explosion of mobile devices and the technology standards that enable them can be overwhelming to anyone, librarians included. Following are today’s primary platforms and technologies that make up the mobile environment for virtual access to library services:
- Devices that run on iOS, which is Apple’s mobile operating system, exclusive to Apple devices – the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
- Devices that run Android, the mobile operating system developed by Google which is open to any device manufacturer, primarily Samsung, HTC and Asus, as well as Google’s own Motorola Mobility division and Nexus tablets.
- eReader platforms including Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo and Sony Reader.
The good news is that you and people you know are using many of these devices in your daily activities, which is the best kind of training!
Mobile Library Opportunities
Your ability to participate actively in a library’s mobilization and virtualization efforts is, and will continue to be, a valuable skill. After reviewing the above Mobile Library Services and Technology Platforms, you should have the sense of the opportunities available to you. We’re not suggesting you learn how to develop an iPhone or Android app. However, you are personally familiar with user needs and library assets and uniquely positioned to translate them for a software development team. In addition to usability, librarians are increasingly taking on the role of mobile marketers through active participation in social media networking, site analytics, communication strategies and marketing plans.
Mobile Librarian Training and Development Resources
While many libraries have reported that they are offering or developing mobile library services, the 2010 Mobile Libraries Survey found that 39% had none to report or none planned. One of the reasons is due to staffing issues, including overburdened librarians or insufficient training and development.
We can’t use this platform to alleviate your workload, but we can share a few helpful resources that you can turn to for training and professional development:
- Handheld Librarian Online Conference
- Journal of Library Innovation
- Library Science List, an online community for librarians, shares a great collection of 20 free online librarian courses.
Librarians skilled in the use of mobile devices and virtual/online access can help ensure that their library is mobilized for relevance, now and into the future.
Most importantly, you can ensure yourself a viable, rewarding career path for years to come.
Links to other articles in series for more information on each skill: