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  • 7/30/2019 Capstone Paper - Hannan - 11.26.12



    Libraries and Mobile Technology

    Khyle M Hannan

    Completed as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the

    Master of Library and Information Science Capstone

    Valdosta State University

    November 26, 2012

  • 7/30/2019 Capstone Paper - Hannan - 11.26.12




    As mobile devices grow in popularity, academic libraries must focus on adapting their resources

    and services to ensure they continue to provide excellent customer service. The advent of mobile

    technology presents both opportunities and challenges for academic libraries. Opportunities

    include increased interaction with patrons and the ability to create custom library experiences

    through applications. Challenges include the need for library staff with technical expertise and

    ensuring that existing electronic resources remain compatible. This paper presents an overview

    of how many academic libraries are using mobile technology, including a detailed summary of

    practical adaptations and applications.

    Keywords: academic libraries, mobile technology, mobile device, smart phone, tablet, mobile

    website, virtual reference service, e-books, qr code, augmented reality, app,

  • 7/30/2019 Capstone Paper - Hannan - 11.26.12



    Libraries and Mobile Technology

    In the late Twentieth Century, academic libraries experienced a paradigm shift in the

    standard form of information delivery. The shift involved a transition from information delivered

    primarily in print form to information delivered primarily in electronic form. The greatest impact

    on the library was in the area of serials and periodicals. Many scholarly publications began to

    offer electronic-only subscriptions. Discipline specific electronic databases became the

    destination of choice for many faculty and researchers. The advent of the electronic book has had

    less impact on libraries so far, but its impact will increase with time.

    To continue to provide the information their patrons need, academic libraries began

    collecting both physical and electronic forms of information. The shift continued, however, and

    over the last twenty years the amount of electronic information continued to grow at the expense

    of print information. Library patrons increasingly rely on computers rather than a book to access

    the information they need. One of the largest results of this change is that patrons can now access

    the majority of library resources, remotely. Library patrons can conduct research, read journals

    and search databases from any place they have an internet connection.

    The next paradigm shift affecting academic libraries began in 2007 with the release of the

    iPhone. The iPhone was the first device in a new smart phone market. Many other smart phones

    soon followed such as Goggles Android phones and Microsofts Windows Mobile phones. All

    of these smart phones share common features the largest being mobile access to the internet.

    Additional features include email, text-messaging, a camera and the ability to enhance their

    functionality by downloading applications (Apps). Following the enormous success of the

    iPhone, Apple introduced a tablet computer called the iPad in 2010. The iPad shared much of the

    functionality of the iPhone the significant differences being a larger screen, faster processor and

    the lack of any phone related features. Many companies released tablet computers to compete

    with the iPad and, as a result, the tablet computer market expanded.

    Previously, laptop computers had been the standard for mobile computing. Laptop

    computers functioned as a portable desktop computer sharing the same operating system and

    software. The rapid growth of the smart phone and tablet computer markets changed the primary

    method that many academic library users access the internet. These mobile devices were

  • 7/30/2019 Capstone Paper - Hannan - 11.26.12



    remarkably different from desktop and laptop computers as they have their own operating

    systems, applications and smaller screen sizes and form factors.

    Academic libraries find themselves in the midst of rapid technological change. Mobile

    technology is a new area of computing and one that has had a considerable impact on the field

    and academic libraries, in particular. The rise of mobile computing represents a paradigm shift in

    the way in which library patrons use electronic information. The focus of this paper will be the

    various opportunities and challenges mobile devices offer academic libraries. For the purposes of

    this paper I will define a mobile device as any device that connects wirelessly to the internet over

    a cellular network, allows most forms of text-based communication (SMS, Email, Instant

    Message), can download Apps to enhance functionality, has a camera and uses one of four

    mobile operating systems, iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile.


    The advent of mobile devices presents a substantial opportunity for academic libraries.

    The transfer of information from print to electronic form has been ongoing for years and

    provides a common foundation. Academic libraries have already adapted or converted many of

    their existing resources into electronic forms. Library patrons have already adjusted to this

    change and had time to familiarize themselves with using electronic information.

    The move to mobile devices provides many opportunities to academic libraries, including

    patrons connected to the library at all times, a convenient means for providing electronic content,

    the potential for increased interaction between the library and patrons and the ability to create

    custom library experiences through applications.

    Mobile devices provide an environment in which patrons are connected to their academic

    library at all times. The opportunity for libraries is in how they respond to this circumstance and

    use that connection effectively. Libraries need to generate interest in mobile services and


    Desktop and laptop computers are a means for libraries to provide electronic content, but

    they have limitations. Location is a limitation; patrons cannot use electronic library resources

    unless they are physically near a desktop computer. Desktop computers typically use a wired

    connection to attach to a network. Laptop computers typically use a wireless connection to attach

    to a network. Both a wired or wireless networks introduce location-based limitations on their

  • 7/30/2019 Capstone Paper - Hannan - 11.26.12



    users. Mobile devices have an internet connection supplied by a cellular network and, therefore,

    their users have less location-based limitations. This fact makes the mobile device a superior

    platform for library patrons to use electronic content.

    A large patron population with mobile devices is an environment in which libraries have

    the opportunity to increase communication and interaction. There are a myriad of different

    communication options available on the average mobile device including SMS or text

    messaging, email, and instant messaging. Libraries have already begun to adapt their services to

    utilize these new communication methods. These services have value as a personal

    communication tool between patrons and library staff, but they have many other uses, as well.

    Many libraries are using some combination of these three methods to conduct reference service.

    The distinction of these new services is that since they are all mobile friendly, the library can

    interact with patrons wherever they happen to be. This aspect of mobile devices enables libraries

    to expand their services beyond the scope of traditional reference and outside the range of the

    patrons within the library facility.

    Mobile devices can enhance their original functionality through downloadable software

    known as Apps. Mobile computer programmers can create Apps to do numerous tasks, and the

    only constraints are the physical limitations of the device itself. Libraries can create Apps of their

    own for mobile patrons. These Apps have the ability to create a custom library experience which

    allows patrons to view library resources in a unique way.

    The advent of mobile devices provides libraries with many opportunities to develop

    traditional services and provide new offerings. Libraries need to focus on how to harness the

    communication abilities of mobile devices by connecting with patrons wherever they are.

    Electronic resources can be made mobile friendly to improve the patron experience. Mobile

    ready communication methods can be used to provide reference services. Finally, libraries can

    create custom experiences by developing Apps that highlight their unique resources.


    Despite the many opportunities that mobile devices provide academic libraries, there are

    a fair number of challenges that need to be overcome. Libraries already have a significant

    investment in electronic resources. Mobile technology is relatively new, and libraries are

    unaware how their existing resources will operate on a mobile device.

  • 7/30/2019 Capstone Paper - Hannan - 11.26.12