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Mobile Libraries

Mobile libraries used to be bookmobiles. Now it`s something different.
The University of Cambridge has released the report: M-Libraries: Information use on the move: a report from the Arcadia Programme by Keren Mills.
You can find a PDF of the full report here.
“These results suggest it is not worth libraries putting development resource into delivering content such as eBooks and e-journals to mobile devices at present. EBooks are already accessible via some mobile phones, such as iPhones and Windows Mobile devices, and audio files such as podcasts and audio books can easily be played on many mobile phones or portable media players. At present, however, most users are put off by the constraints of the technology, such as poor screen quality. iPhone users are already more inclined to read eBooks on their phones, according to comments from the respondents to this survey.“
Lordy! Can you imagine a sillier conclusion. Most people in the world don`t have e-mail, telephones, or enough food to eat. Let’s wait until they do before we prepare libraries for a change that’s happening now.
I remember leading one association that had the e-mail addresses of 97% of it`s members and there were still some nervous nellies who felt that we should wait until everyone caught up.
No wonder some people think that libraries lag!
Is there something in our culture that says we always have to be behind the curve, lagging, and always playing catch up?


Posted on: June 25, 2009, 3:35 pm Category: Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. I read the whole report… It seems to be a reasonable and fairly well researched recommendation of what to do in a world of limited resources. Indeed, they recommend a text-messaging reference service, something the library at the college I attend does not do, nor do many public libraries. Your criticism takes the one paragraph in the whole report that recommends not adopting a certain technology. I, for one, am grateful for a report that actually identifies something not to do, instead of blanket endorsements of any and all technologies with little regard to budget realities.
    Too bad they came to the conclusion to delay the number one priority in development to survive. You see that in other failing industries – mainstream cars and hybrids, online and web search, etc. Everyone always looks for proof to avoid strategic effort. Things can change afully fast and this is one of them.

  2. Jeff Trzeciak said

    Let’s wait until 98% of our users are using mobile devices and then let’s whine about why they’re no longer coming in. Then, we can complain to our administrations that they don’t give us enough funding. Afterall, that strategy has worked for us, hasn’t it?
    Three years ago when I started at McMaster we were purchasing around 30,000 titles. Last year we purchased 175,000 – the vast majority were e-books. Over the past few years our circulation has declined significantly and a large percentage of what remains is laptop loans. One of the biggest complaints we get is that there are not enough places to “plug in”.
    How long will it be before we see a dramatic increase in the use of phones for accessing our content? I suspect not long at all – fewer than 5 years certainly. How long before we are nearly 100% e-content (minus, of course, special collections and legacy collections) Again, not long I suspect.
    Despite the fact that I manage a large library, I now find that the most interesting work is being done in the smaller, non-western libraries. Why? Three simple reasons:
    1) they have been able to leapfrog over technologies that we invested heavily in and they’ve been able to move directly to mobile along with their populations;
    2) they are not held back by legacy collections and are able to move directly to electronic;
    3) finally, they are not held back by a generation of library staff who think “business as usual” is going to sustain them.
    I am not surprised by this report. Unfortunately.
    Thanks Jeff. I coudn’t agree more. I hear too many folks saying theyre tired and they just don’t have enough energy to deal with everything that’s changing. I’ll guess that when the real pain happens they’ll just retire and carp at those left about how they did it better in the 70’s. Sad.