Mobile Technology and the Academic Library


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Mobile Technology and the Academic Library

  1. 1. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 1 Moving Forward: Opportunities forMobile Technology in the Academic Library Katie Seeler University of MarylandLBSC 734: Seminar in the Academic Library Dr. Trudi Bellardo Hahn May 04, 2011 To be submitted to: College & Research Libraries
  2. 2. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 2 Moving Forward: Opportunities for Mobile Technology in the Academic Library Abstract Large numbers of students own mobile devices that they use to access the Internet on aregular basis. Libraries can harness the power of this trend by incorporating the technology intolibrary services such as information resources, orientation, circulation, reference, userinstruction, and marketing. Universities across the nation are utilizing a variety of technologieslike applications, QR codes, and augmented reality to move traditional services into the digitalera.Mobile Technologies Laptops, netbooks, e-readers, tablets, and internet capable handheld devices are some ofthe many types of mobile technology currently flooding the market. It is important for theacademic library to look at how many students own each type of technology and how studentsuse their mobile devices to locate and retrieve information. Juxtaposing this information withcurrent library operations allows the library to align their services to student behavior andexpectations. Beginning in 2004, the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research has conducted a yearlystudy of undergraduate students and information technology. Nearly 37,000 respondents from127 institutions in Canada and the United States in the most recent survey revealed trends ininformation technology and the academic experience, technology adoption and ownership, andstudent activity with technology. When asked to describe their technology adoption behavior, the overwhelming majorityof students were mainstream adopters, early adopters, or innovators.1 (Table 1) This indicates
  3. 3. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 3that students are quick to adopt new technologies and while the academic library may not be ableto keep pace, assessing student use of changing technologies allows the library to make a moreinformed decision in their technology acquisition process.TABLE 1. Undergraduate Student Technology Adoption ECAR Descriptor Tag Description Percentage Loves new technologies and amongInnovator 10.8% first to experiment and use them Like new technologies and use themEarly Adopter 24.7% before most people Usually use new technologies whenMainstream Adopter 49.3% others do Usually one of the last to use newLate Adopter 10.3% technologies Skeptical of new technologies andLaggard 5.0% use them only when necessary Note: The percentages do not total 100.0%. Data cited verbatim from ECAR study. As for ownership of Internet capable handheld devices such as tablets and smartphones,almost 63 percent of students currently own and another 11 percent intend to buy such a devicewithin a year. The number of respondents owning such devices increased 22 percent from theprevious year, while the percentage of those students intending to purchase within a yearremained the same.2 The collective group amounts to 75 percent of undergraduate students, anumber that academic libraries should take note of as these students expect to be able to conducta variety of standard services via their mobile equipment. When examining what activities students were engaged in while using the Internet ontheir mobile devices, the top three interests are to check information (news, weather, etc), e-mail,and social networking websites. The 76.9% of undergraduate student respondents indicatingthey use mobile applications for social networking marks increased by 23 percent from theprevious year’s survey. Other key uses of the Internet on mobile devices are the use of maps and
  4. 4. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 4instant messaging. (See Table 2) Of the thirteen activities listed, almost of a third ofundergraduate students reported that they conduct seven or more of the activities listed.3 Theinterests and activities reflected in these results can greatly influence how the academic libraryservices its student patrons.TABLE 2. Internet Activities Performed from Handheld Devices Internet Activities Performed Percentage of Internet-Using Device Owners who Perform Activity (N=17,867)Check information (news, weather, specific facts, etc) 85.0%E-mail 81.7%Social networking websites (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) 76.9%Use maps (find places, get directions, or plan route) 68.6%Instant message 38.3%Conduct personal business (banking, shopping, etc) 38.1%Download/stream music 34.5%Download or watch videos online 30.2%Download or play games online 25.5%Follow or update micro-blogs (Twitter, etc) 21.0%Use photo-sharing websites (Flikr, Snapfish, Picasa, etc) 18.1%Read or contribute to blogs 15.0%Watch mobile TV 11.7%Mobile Technologies and Library Services Knowing that a significant portion of undergraduate students utilize mobile technologyon a regular basis, the academic library is challenged to incorporate this technology into standard
  5. 5. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 5services in a cost-effective manner. So what types of services are going mobile? Whatinstitutions are leading the field in adapting old processes to new technologies? What are thebarriers to executing this change? The answers to these questions are fundamental forestablishing a plan to implement mobile technology into the academic library and to meet, if notexceed, student expectations.Mobile Version of Website, Catalog, and Databases As the first point of contact for patrons and portal to additional features such asdatabases, accessibility of a library’s website is of utmost importance, especially consideringhow many individuals seek information via Internet capable handheld devices. Some commonservices accessible through mobile library websites include hours of operation, catalog, new orevents, audio tours, and reference services. However, it is important that a library’s mobilewebsite develop applications that function on multiple operating systems in order to maximizeaccess.4 Numbers from a recent Library Journal survey indicate that 39 percent of academiclibraries presently provide a mobile version of their website and 36 percent offer a mobile-friendly catalog. Other mobile priorities for the academic library include reference services, textnotifications, and ability to access databases.5 This appears to support the assertion of threelibrarians from Oregon State University that “mobile versions of a library’s website will be ascommon and as expected as the library’s current desktop site is today.”6 There are fewer academic libraries with mobile catalogs, or OPACs, than those withmobile websites. This is most likely a result of the added expense from implementing a vendor-supplied version or the know-how to create a mobile OPAC in house. Other disadvantages ofusing commercial mobile OPACs include the lack of customization and feature enhancement.
  6. 6. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 6Some mobile OPACs even include citation tools.7 Georgetown University Library is an exampleof an academic library that uses a mobile version of its OPAC provided by the vendor whichallows for item renewal, hold, and searches.8 One drawback to this particular product is that itssearch interface has not been customized for mobile devices, meaning that it is a smaller versionof the desktop interface, thus decreasing ease of use. It also does not permit text messaging,directions, or auto-dialing services.9 Although many mobile OPACs have their flaws, they are agood start to mobilizing handheld access to an academic library’s materials. Many database vendors like EBSCO, LexisNexis, and PubMed are providing mobile-friendly versions of their materials or downloadable applications.10 The number of publishersdoing so is likely to increase. This is significant as 54 percent of academic library respondentsindicated that it is a priority to provide access to online databases via handheld devices.11Orientation Navigating the library can be a daunting task for many patrons, especially freshmenstudents unaccustomed to such a large facility with a completely different cataloging system.Many academic libraries conduct tours and/or provide some type of navigation tool like a map.However, with the advent and popularity of handheld devices that support multimedia content,academic libraries have been experimenting with other delivery methods. One example is the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Lupton Library’s “iPodInvestigation” program, which is designed to familiarize freshmen students with availablefacilities, resources, and services. Librarians assimilated video, music, screen captures, quizzes,and some gaming to engage students as they toured the library on their own.12 Others likeUniversity Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provide virtual tours, cellphone tours, and even an iPhone/iTouch/iPad application to orient users to its facility.13
  7. 7. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 7 Augmented reality is an emerging technology that offers a new and exciting way topresent information. Essentially, augmented reality superimposes a virtual image on a tangiblesurface (object, building, etc.). While there are not any universities with full-scale augmentedreality applications at this time, the 2011 Horizon Report identifies it as a technology likely togreatly impact teaching and learning in the next two to three years.14 North Carolina StateUniversity Libraries offers a mobile tour of campus known as WolfWalk. It utilizes geolocationand geotagging to view historical images of campus locations.15 Perhaps as the technologyimproves, the library will modify the programming to incorporate a handheld device’s cameraand create a virtual overly on campus buildings or to navigate within the library to find aparticular item.Circulation Academic libraries with mobile OPACs allowing patrons to access their personal accountcan go one step further by permitting payments for goods and services via handheld devices.Applications using radio frequency identification technology (RFID) enable users to makepayment by waving their handheld device in front of a terminal or automated device, such as aprinter or vending machine.16 This technology could allow patrons to pay their fines or evencheck out materials. Some academic libraries like the University of Maryland loan equipment (e-readers,GPS, laptops, iPads, etc.) to students. Institutions with equipment loan programs could allowusers with Internet capable handheld devices to check the availability of equipment and evenreserve one for later use. The same idea applies to group study rooms, although some librarieslike Nova Southeastern University Health Professions Division Library offer beepers to alertwaiting students when a room is open, in addition to the ability to check the status online.17
  8. 8. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 8 The circulation department generally oversees the shelving of materials. Dr. BoBrinkman of Miami University unveiled an augmented reality shelf-reading application at theACRL 2011 conference in Philadelphia. Users that have downloaded the application are able tohold their handheld device to the shelf, at which time the camera reads a special code on abook’s spine to read its call number and compare it to others on a given shelf. The user will thensee a red X or green check mark over each spine to see what is in or out of place. Theapplication will then direct users to where the book should be placed using a green arrow. Thisparticular augmented reality feature is still under development but it could eventually be found inmany libraries.18 A major challenge to its implementation in the academic library would be theapplication of a unique sticker (i.e., the code read by the shelf-reading application) to each itemin the library given the hundreds of thousands of volumes many libraries own.User Instruction In addition to examining trends in technology ownership and adoption and what studentsare doing with technology, EDUCAUSE’s annual study of undergraduate students looks at theconnection between information technology and the academic experience. By understanding thetypes of technology utilized in courses and how students prefer to learn with technology, theacademic library can deliver more engaging user instruction. This might be in the form of onlinetutorials, face-to-face instruction, research guides, or any other type of initiative that seeks toenhance information literacy for students in higher education institutions. A large percentage of students enjoy learning by watching video content or listening toaudio content (80.7 percent) and by conducting Internet searches (79.3 percent). Slightly morethan half of undergraduate students report liking to learn via programs they can control, such as
  9. 9. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 9video games and simulations.19 Overall, students appear to prefer multimedia-based and passivelearning methods. (Figure 1) Augmented reality applications might also be assimilated into user instruction. Thedepartment that oversees user instruction often designs and manages programs to orientincoming freshmen students to library resources and facilities. The previously mentionedUniversity of Tennessee at Chattanooga Lupton Library’s “iPod Investigation” program could beenhanced to guide students around the library by showing information on a handheld device.User instruction could work with the cataloging, reference, and technology departments to createa virtual display of item information when a student holds their handheld device up to a book.The display might include user comments or suggestions for additional reading.FIGURE 1. How Students Like to Learn with Technology I  like  to  learn  through  creaFng  audio  or  video  content.   (N=35,996)   26.9   51.8   21.3   I  like  to  learn  through  contribuFng  to  websites,  blogs,   wikis,  etc.  (N=36,041)   37.3   46.2   16.5   I  like  to  learn  through  text-­‐based  conversaFons  over  e-­‐ mail,  IM,  and  text  messaging.  (N=36,261)   45.3   40.1   14.7   I  like  to  learn  through  programs  I  can  control,  such  as   video  games  and  simulaFons.  (N=36,128)   50.6   33.2   16.2   I  like  to  learn  through  running  Internet  searches.   (N=36,303)   79.3   14.6   6.1   I  like  to  learn  through  listening  to  audio  or  watching   video  content.  (N=36,259)   80.7   13.6   5.6   Yes   No   Dont  Know  Reference A recent Library Journal survey found that two-fifths of those academic libraries withoutmobile services intend to offer SMS (short message service) reference services.20 This service
  10. 10. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 10can be provided through a variety of platforms including Google, AOL Instant Messenger, andMosio’s Text a Librarian. Southwest Louisiana University implemented such a service andfound that the reference questions received through this medium tended to require short answers,such as the year Texas became a state.21 Many handheld devices, including the HTC Evo 4G smartphone, iPhone 4, and iPad2,now have the ability for two-way mobile video calling. While it does not appear that anyacademic library is providing reference service through this feature, two-way mobile videocalling is relatively unchartered territory in the United States. It may become more prevalent incoming years.Marketing Almost 60 percent of undergraduate students use social networking websites (Facebook,Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, etc.) on a daily basis, posting status updates or locations.22 Alltypes of libraries have started to maintain an online presence at various social networkingwebsites, using them to share information, advertise events, initiate dialog with users, andpromote their brand. The Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan hascreated a Facebook profile page and embedded their catalog, WorldCat search, subject guides,“ask a librarian,” and links to certain library pages.23 QR (quick response) codes consist of a matrix barcode readable by handheld devices witha camera. Anyone can create a QR code online that leads to a URL, phone number, SMSmessage, or text.24 This technology could be used to market events on a poster, flyer, or webvideo. Lafayette College Library had an event in September 2010 called “Where in the Libraryis Carmen Sandigo?: An Interactive Library Mystery Game” that used QR codes and librariansstationed around the facility to help students learn about the library. Some libraries use QR
  11. 11. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 11codes in an exhibit to link to additional information or the university archives; others likeHarold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University use them for an audio tour.25Conclusion The dizzying array of mobile technology both currently available and in development canbe overwhelming to an academic library trying to engage students. Technology will continue toimpact every area of the academic library, from orientation to user instruction to marketing, asstudents increasingly move toward Internet capable handheld devices. The academic library thenmust determine how to seamlessly integrate the technology in a value-added manner withoutneglecting those users who do not own or intend to purchase such devices.
  12. 12. Mobile Technology and the Academic Library 12 Notes1 Shannon D. Smith and Judith Borreson Caruso. “The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and InformationTechnology, 2010—Key Findings” (Report, Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2010), 39.2 Ibid., 46-47.3 Smith and Caruso, ECAR Study, 59-60.4 Lilia Murray, “Libraries ‘like to move it, move it’,” Reference Services Review, 38, no. 2 (2010): 234-235, doi:10.1108/00907321011045007.5 Lisa Carlucci Thomas, “Gone Mobile? Mobile catalogs, SMS reference, and QR codes are on the rise–how arelibraries adapting to mobile culture?,” Library Journal, October 15, 2010: 30-31.6 Laurie Bridges, Hannah Gascho Rempel, and Kimberly Griggs, “Making the case for a fully mobile library website: from floor maps to the catalog,” Reference Services Review, 38, no. 2 (2010): 318, doi:10.1108/00907321011045061.7 Ibid., 314-315.8 Murray, Move it, 239-240.9 Bridges, 315.10 Murray, Move it, 241.11 Carlucci Thomas, Gone mobile, 31.12 Virginia Cairns and Toni C. Dean, “Library iTour: Introducing the iPod Generation to the Academic Library”(presentation, Middle Tennessee University Instructional Technology Conference, Murfreesboro, TN, March 29-31,2009).13 University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Tours of the Library,” University Library,University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, L. Johnson et al., “The Horizon Report: 2011 Edition” (Report, Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium, 2011),5.15 North Carolina State University Libraries, “WolfWalk:DLI:NCSU Libraries,” North Carolina State UniversityLibraries, Joan K. Lippincott, “A mobile future for academic libraries,” Reference Services Review, 38, no. 2 (2010): 210,doi: 10.1108/00907321011044981.17 Nova Southeastern University Health Professions Division Library, “Checkout a Study Room? – Introduction tothe Health Professions Division Library,” Nova Southeastern University Health Professions Division Library, “Augmented Reality App for Shelf Reading,” Video clip, [March 22, 2011],, (accessed May 1, 2011).19 Smith and Caruso, ECAR Study, 89-90.20 Carlucci Thomas, Gone mobile, 30.21 Murray, Move it, 238.22 Smith and Caruso, ECAR Study, 61.23 Andrea Dickson and Robert P. Holley, “Social Networking in Academic Libraries: The Possibilities and theConcerns,” School of Library and Information Science Faculty Research Publications, Paper 33 (2010): 6-7.24 Robin Ashford, “QR codes and academic libraries: Reaching mobile users,” College & Research Libraries News,71, no. 10 (2010): 526.25 Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, “QR Code Information - QR Code Information - SubjectGuides at Brigham Young University,” Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library,