Monday, August 27, 2012

Mobile Monday

Last month I attended a webinar on "Bridging the Digital Divide with Mobile Services" cosponsored by WebJunction and the ALA. The idea of bridging the "digital divide" between the information resource "haves" and "have nots" has been on the minds of librarians for some time. Particularly public libraries seek to give the have nots an opportunity to learn and use technologies that they might not be able to afford on their own. This is why you commonly see public computers and wifi freely available in libraries.

But the presenter--who, by the way, has one of the best names I have ever heard--Andromeda Yelton, was not talking about providing e-Readers for patrons to borrow when they borrow e-Books. Instead she advocated that libraries should focus more attention on the digital devices that their patrons already have. It took me aback when she claimed that the white majority is just now catching up with the African American and Latino populations in terms of smartphone (i.e., iPhones) ownership. This flies in the face of what I understood to still be the systemic unjust inequity in American society. But when she explained that cell phones with 3G network plans are a relatively inexpensive alternative to buying laptop computers and internet service, it made sense. Often you can get the gadget phone "for free" so long as you sign up for a two year contract with cell phone service provider.

She recommends that public libraries make their sites mobile friendly to serve this growing segment of users. And highlight popular web resources such as the Social Security Office from the library's web page.

Studies supporting her assertion have been done by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. In January 2012, they reported that 19% of adults in the United States own tablets (like the iPad) and 19% own e-Readers (like the Kindle) --nearly doubled from pre-holiday numbers. And as of March of this year, their research showed that nearly half of American adults are smartphone owners (Pew Internet).

Although we haven't done a survey of our own HIU population, it is rare to find a student, staff or faculty member who does not have a smartphone. Therefore, over the next several months we will highlight mobile library services and resources -- interfaces of web sites, apps, devices, and issues affecting mobile users.

If you are connecting via smartphone, the library's web site should auto-detect your mobile operating system and present you with a version that is fitted to your smaller screen. Some websites require you must select the mobile interface or type in the URL. The WorldCat Local (our catalog) mobile address is but it should automatically give you a small screen interface as well.

The above image is a screenshot from an Android phone connected to the Darling Library's home page. It is a result of clever coding. In our case, we purchased a service from Springshare to enable Lindsey (our Technical Services and Systems Librarian) to create a mobile version of our site. She then inserted the auto-detect code and plugged a "Full Version" link into the footer to allow smartphones to use the full version of the website.

Lindsey clarifies what qualifies as a mobile device:
As in many cases with auto-detection code, iPads/tablets tend to not be treated as "mobile" devices with this type of auto-detecting. They will need to click on the [Mobile Version] link in the webpage footer in order view the mobile interface. (Although, I personally think that it's easier to use the full site on the iPad than the mobile version.)

Please let us know if you discover problems with it.

For a glossary of terms and more information about mobile devices, click on the "mobile devices" link on the right column of this blog.


Andromeda said...

Love the compliment on my name, and glad to hear you're thinking about how to engage your patrons this way!

Robin Hartman said...

I just hope I represented your session well. It was thought provoking!