Mobile technology has facilitated access to information, making it more accessible to the user 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is estimated that globally more than five billion people own mobile devices. This means anytime, anywhere access is a global expectation that libraries must consider.
Libraries, as an information and reference service, have evolved considerably over time, following the rapid digital transformation and the increase in information in recent decades, with regard to services, methods and ways of providing their users with access to information.
The digital transformation in libraries (Hudron K. Kari, 2020) has brought services such as access to e-journals, e-books, digital repositories, multimedia content and a significant increase in the library collection in multiple formats.
The user profile has also been changing over the last few years, creating new needs, new demands and a new reality for library services. New generations (Millennials and Generation Z) of users brought to the library the need to develop its relationship with its audience, a relationship that increasingly requires proximity (even if it is digital and at a distance) and availability of services through a smartphone.
Libraries in smartphone ecosystems
The smartphone today has more features and capabilities than ever before. More and more people use the smartphone instead of the computer for their daily tasks̶ searching for information as well as reading, listening, communicating, sharing and viewing content. The smartphone has become one of the main interfaces that people use to access, consume and share information and the main interface of the library.
Technology is changing the way we communicate, teach, read, entertain and search for information. Libraries can best serve its users by embracing the growing mobile technology that provides access to their services and catalogues, by offering mobile access to e-books, newspapers, videos, audio books and multimedia, and by being an important help for both less experienced users and more advanced users, researchers for example, and librarians themselves.
A library's mobile technology strategy should focus on satisfying users' needs from their mobile devices.
Having an integrated experience between desktop and mobile is just the starting point of this strategy. There is also a way to improve traditional library services through library technology and to create new services specifically for mobile users. A mobile technology plan allows your library to easily integrate into your users' daily lives.
Benefits of Mobile Apps for the Library
In a growingly digital world, a mobile app that connects the library, its staff and users is increasingly essential to library services.
For librarians, information managers and their staff, it's all about simple access for your users and finding an easy and practical way to bring the library to your users, wherever they are.
If the convenience of an easy-to-download mobile app for library users is successful, the mobile app and its functionality can significantly improve the use of library resources and services more effectively and efficiently. There are several advantages to the library (Manjula, 2019) via mobile app:
- Reaches more audiences: There are millions of users with smartphones. Libraries can reach the largest number of audiences.
- Access: Mobile apps are easy to access and use. In most cases, authentication is only requested on the first use, mainly with institution credentials, thus allowing the user not to have to enter their data repeatedly whenever they need to use the library's services.
- 24/7 Access: Access to library information 24/7 and 365 days.
- Library Marketing: By reaching more users, it becomes easier to promote library services, making it possible to differentiate by profiles and offer distinct services.
- Compatibility: Most catalogs and library services are fully responsive; however, there may be cases where navigability and usability can be compromised due to the way they are accessed (system, browser, etc.). Mobile apps promote stable compatibility.
- Work Offline: There are mobile applications developed to work even offline. This functionality allows the user to enjoy library services even when the internet is not available, thus making the library accessible 24 hours a day..
- Custom Setup: Users can configure and view applications in their own way. It helps user requirements and preferences. Users can create a personalized shelf of favourite e-books and e-newspapers from their own subject area.
- Interactive: Mobile applications are interactive. Whenever the internet is connected, notifications are visible, allowing the library to disseminate services and alerts.
- Unlimited Access: Users can access information as often and whenever they want. This will be more useful for quick reference of information and avoids unnecessary storage of information on devices.
- Encourages Reading Habits: When users get e-books and e-magazines easily, it somehow stimulates users' reading habits. Users can save time searching for information, and at the same time, they can be used to consult more information or documents. So, users can get more knowledge by reading different types of information available.
- Accessibility: Features such as voice reading help users to read.
The goal of libraries mobile presence is to improve the end-user experience and increase its use. It's important to set specific goals within a mobile library strategy, and then find vendors that can help develop those goals and provide solutions to meet them, which will create a powerful mobile experience for users and librarians. In some cases, the institution itself already has a mobile app. Also, many libraries, instead of having their own app, integrate their services into the existing app, adding another available service to their community.
The libraries' mobile strategy (Gaffar & Kishore Kumar, 2019) can be phased and distributed in several stages.It is not just about making a mobile app available; it is about ensuring that all their online services are accessible via mobile, responsive and meet all the requirements for navigability on any device. (Singh, n.d.)
Making accommodations for mobile users essential in the library website and in the app design is an important step in changing practice to meet these users’ needs.
The EBSCO Mobile App and web interface allow libraries to offer their users ubiquitous access to content, giving patrons access to the library when and where they need it. Researchers can jump into any step in the research process, search for articles on the go, use sharing and citation tools, and save their articles to folders for later reading,
EBSCO Information Services. (n.d.-a). Mobile in the Library. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.ebsco.com/sites/g/files/nabnos191/files/acquiadam-assets/Mobile-in-the-Library-Infographic.pdf
EBSCO Information Services. (n.d.-b). The EBSCO App: A Versatile “Swiss Army Knife” for Search and Discovery. Https://Www.Ebsco.Com/Blogs/Ebscopost/Ebsco-App-Versatile-Swiss-Army-Knife-Search-and-Discovery. Retrieved July 1, 2022, from https://www.ebsco.com/blogs/ebscopost/ebsco-app-versatile-swiss-army-knife-search-and-discovery
Gaffar, S. A., & Kishore Kumar, S. (2019). Awareness and access to mobile applications in an Academic Library. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac
Hudron K. Kari. (2020). Digital Transformation of Information and its Impact on Libraries. In World Journal of Innovative Research (Issue 9). https://www.wjir.org/download_data/WJIR0901033.pdf
Manjula, T. (2019). LIBRARY MOBILE APPS: FOR EFFECTIVE SERVICES OF LIBRARY. 5, 17–31.
Singh, B. P. (n.d.). Digital Transformation of library services in the Mobile World: The future trends.
Weise, F. (2004). Being there: the library as place*. In J Med Libr Assoc (Vol. 92, Issue 1).