Making Your Library Mobile Friendly

A recent article, published by eMarketer at http://www.emarketer.com/Article/US-Internet-Users-Rely-on-Mobile-Devices-Digital-Access/1013649, looked at trends in accessing the Internet.  It reports that in 2016, 31 million Internet users in the United State will use mobile technology to access the Internet.  It goes on to show that users are ditching their desktops and instead using mobile devices, with one out of every ten exclusively using a mobile device.

It is evident that mobile technology is here to stay.  As libraries, it is important that we are considering how users access our catalogs, collections, and resources.  If we want to play an integral role in the lives of our patrons, we need to meet them where they are.  That means we need to be exploring ways to make the library’s Web presence more mobile-friendly.  For smaller libraries, it may be a challenge to implement mobile-friendly features due to limited staff, knowledge, and money; however, there are some affordable and sometimes free solutions available to small libraries.

In some cases, ILS vendors and developers have responded to the demand for mobile access and have improved styles to accommodate mobile access.  It is quite frustrating trying to do a search on a screen so small that you can’t read the text or so large that you need to constantly scroll.  The simplified user interface allows for easy navigation and readability.  You may want to check with your vendor or support team to see if your catalog supports mobile devices.  If not, ask if it is in development.

Just like the library catalog, the library website should also be mobile-friendly.  Many patrons may be out and want to check library hours or calendar of events.  A mobile-friendly site will make it much easier for them to get to that information.  If the library is using a content management system, such as Drupal or WordPress, there are many themes and plugins available to make the site mobile-friendly.  If you have built your own site, there is plenty of documentation online, such as W3Schools (http://www.w3schools.com/css/css_rwd_mediaqueries.asp), that provides information on how to format your site for mobile devise.  A search for “css mobile” will bring up many more.  With some simple tweaks to your site, you can be mobile-friendly in no time.

Finally, you may want to consider investing in a mobile app.  An app facilitates easy and seamless access to the library.  In many cases, it can also integrate other features like online databases, ebook collections, and calendar of events, so patrons only need to go to one place to connect to all the great services your library provides.  While libraries can contract with programmers to develop a custom app for the library, a more cost effective approach is using a vendor like Boopsie (http://www.boopsie.com), who specializes in mobile apps for libraries.  Since Boopsie has already developed an app for libraries, they simply need to configure it and brand it for your library.  What is more, through OHIONET (http://www.ohionet.org), you can get a discount on Boopsie.

You may be thinking that your patrons don’t use smartphones or tablets. However, eMarketer reports that 80% of the U.S. will use a mobile phone in 2016, and of those users, four out of five will be using smartphones.  Likewise, the use of tablets continues to increase.  When you consider how more and more people or adopting mobile technologies, it is critical that we at least begin to explore ways to make our small libraries more mobile-friendly.

–Chauncey Montgomery , Director
Community Library, Sunbury, OH

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