Mobile devices & libraries

I didn’t get to attend the LITA National Forum this year but judging from he tweets I missed one of the better LITA conference line-ups in a while. One of the major topics I saw people tweeting about was designing services for mobile devices. The general gist from the tweets I saw was that in the next few years libraries will have to support mobile users. While I agree that we need to do our best to reach our users wherever they are, whenever they want us Twitterville has got me wondering. Is it true that we have a few years to do this? By then the opportunity might be lost. I wonder if in a few years we will need to provide specific services to mobile devices. By a few I am talking about maybe 4 or 5. I think it is something we ought to be doing now, but probably won’t need to provide in a longer time frame. The iPhone and similar devices already display most Web pages fine. Sure, you need to check them, but most are usable. That said, most are also currently not as easily to be used as possible. However with the rate of technology change, in 5 years mobile devices will be much better at display Web pages and I predict they will be able to display almost all Web pages without a hitch.

That said, I think librarians need to go mobile now. We can’t, or at least we shouldn’t, wait for mobile devices to catch-up with our, often poorly designed, Web sites and associated Web applications (e.g. OPACs, Federated Search engines, etc.). We need to be rolling out services now that will provide mobile users the services they need until mobile technology catches up. If not, I whole four year class (in Academic institutions) will be missing out. We shouldn’t allow that.

4 Comments

  1. Paige Moore said,

    October 5, 2009 at 10:10:31

    Thanks for this article. Wow it is good to know that libraries are supporting the mobile devices. It is really a great help for everyone, especially to those who can’t afford to buy their own books.

  2. Rosalyn Metz said,

    October 5, 2009 at 11:10:35

    here here! i feel like library’s seem to always be a few steps behind and often don’t bother to acknowledge that. way to call them out.

  3. Dan Scott said,

    October 5, 2009 at 13:10:56

    Heh, sounds like you and I are in complete agreement; check out the third paragraph of my blog post at http://coffeecode.net/archives/189-Evergreen-iPhone-application-Unnecessary!.html

    This isn’t to say that aspects of the Evergreen interface couldn’t be improved to work better in mobile devices, but the improving capabilities of mobile devices (like the Nokia n900 with 1GB of RAM!) & the adoption of standard cross-browser-aware JavaScript frameworks such as Dojo and jquery seem to be helping the mobile experience converge towards a reasonable middle ground for unoptimized sites.

  4. ecorrado said,

    October 5, 2009 at 15:10:38

    Dan: I think your prediction in your blog post “that in another year or two the idea of building mobile-specific Web portals to complement your full-function Web site will be pretty passé” is probably true. I went a little further out time-line wise mostly because of the way cell phone companies lock us into contracts in the United States.