Technology Watch

Apple’s new tablet, named ipad, unveiled on 27 January 2010 is described by the company as  “a revolutionary device for browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading e-books and much more.” This new piece of technology has aroused the interest of many people and  the library community has immediately started debating about its possible impact on the delivery of library services in the future. It is worth noting that the ipad is not the only device capable of reading digital books available on the market. Other devices from Sony, Barnes and Noble, including Amazon’s popular kindle along with PDA’s are also capable of reading e-documents. Librarians view the coming of such portable devices with mixed feelings. For some, such devices are just “transitional” while others described them as “little mutant experiments”. Jason Griffey has even proclaimed that the “early 2010 is going to be the height of the e-Reader, and late 2010 will see their decline”.

What should be the response of libraries in the light of  a proliferation of such e-Readers? If the promising mobile technologies, with added functionalities, attract more and more users and succeed in changing the information-seeking behaviour of library patrons, librarians will have no alternative than to adapt to the changing realities. Heavy demand from users for e-books will ultimately force libraries to re-define their services to meet new expectations. Failure to do so may entail their elimination as a competitive information provider in the information society.

P. Hauroo

Mobile Computing & Libraries

During the last few years, a diverse array  of network-capable mobile devices – ranging from smart phones, e-readers, PDA’s, netbooks and laptops – has hit the consumer market. These mobile devices along with global cellular network have had a profound impact on the information-seeking behaviour of users. Many people now use their mobile phones to connect with others and communicate online through social network sites. Major web browsers like Yahoo,  Google,  Opera,  etc all have  mobile (mini) version to fit the mobile screen. The  Horizon Report (USA, ed. 2010) states that  “The available choices for staying connected while on the go are many — smart phones, netbooks, laptops, and a wide range of other devices access the Internet using cellular-based portable hotspots and mobile broadband cards, in addition to wi-fi that is increasingly available wherever people congregate. At the same time, the devices we carry are becoming ever more capable, and the boundaries between them more and more blurred. In the developed world, mobile computing has become an indispensable part of day-to-day life in the workforce, and a key driver is the increasing ease and speed with which it is possible to access the Internet from virtually anywhere in the world via the ever-expanding cellular network.”

Librarians have always been enthusiastic in applying and adopting new technologies to serve their clientele. Many libraries in foreign countries have successfully exploited novel web-based technologies, including social networking, chat technologies, Instant Messaging, SMS etc. All these technologies are increasingly being used on mobile devices.  Should libraries turn to mobile technologies to meet new users’ needs?  An interesting book entitled Mobile Technology and Libraries, by Jason Griffey advocates  that librarians should get ready for it… The author  outlines the different mobile platforms, devices, and services, and shows you how to create mobile library websites and implement a number of important developments including mobile reference and SMS. He also explains how the various affected parts of the library –reference, I.T. circulation–can work together. You’ll learn techniques for marketing and measuring your services, and best practices to follow during planning, implementation, and evaluation.”

An extract of the preface of the book is hereby reproduced which makes a convincing case for librarians to go for the mobile technology:

“Worldwide mobile telephone subscriptions reached 3.3 billion – equivalent to half the global population. In over 50 countries, cell phone penetration (the number of cell phones per person) is above 100%. By 2010, 90% of the world’s population will have access to a cell phone signal.These statistics are indicative of a major shift in the way that the world interacts with information, and illustrate the next real paradigm shift in information gathering, use, and sharing. As phones become more and more capable, fewer and fewer people find the need to connect with their infosphere via computer. Instead, the majority of people use a cell phone as their primary interface for surfing the web, listening to music, watching television, reading books, and communicating with friends. The mobile phone has become, over the last 10 years, one of the major methods by which people interact with information around the world. Librarians need to be aware of these changes, peer forward, and prepare for the future of library mobile interaction.

Mobile Technology and Libraries will help integrate your library into the mobile revolution, showing you the steps to development a mobile library website, reach library patrons in a new and exciting way, as well as use Short Message Services (SMS) communication…”

For those who are interested to promote future mobile services,  visit the  NCSU Libraries Mobile site http://m.lib.ncsu.edu/. For another application of mobile technologies in the provision of enhanced user services, go to Mobile MedlinePlus. The mobile site provides users with the latest health news and information on topics such as diseases, wellness, drug prescriptions and other related topics.

Are you interested to build a dedicated mobile site for your library? Carrying your library in your pocket or putting information at the fingertips of your users, does it sound unrealistic?  Think about it!

P. Hauroo