Which library content providers are utilising mobile technologies?

During the course of the project, we’ve been keeping track of which library content providers are utilising mobile technologies, by speaking to suppliers at exhibitions and by checking details via their own websites and guides produced by libraries. There are a variety of different approaches, which we thought would be useful information to share.

Not all providers are supporting access to their content via mobile devices, though many are. Some are ensuring their content displays on different sizes and types of devices via mobile websites, whilst others are choosing to develop their own mobile application (see earlier blog post on mobile web vs. mobile app if you are not sure of the difference).

Authentication is a common issue for many of the providers, particularly those currently offering resources via authentication systems such as Shibboleth, Athens, or a proxy server. Though many of these work relatively seamlessly now on a desktop or laptop computer, mobile browsers do not cope well with multiple redirects and sometimes time out. Some suppliers offer full text access via mobile devices, but only when on site (via IP range), whilst others have systems for supporting off site access. This is often by creating a verification code whilst on campus and using that to log into a mobile app, which then provides access for a period of time without having to log in. Some also support full text when accessing via VPN.

There are a number different purposes for the mobile apps and websites – some aim to facilitate discovery of resources, whilst others focus on saving material for reading via mobile devices (or a combination). Apps for reading sometimes have the option to save material offline so that it can be read without an internet connection (useful when travelling).

More suppliers appear to be providing multiple options (e.g. they may have initially just had an iPhone app, but now have apps for other devices as well as a mobile website). We’ve also noticed that mobile websites are becoming more common, many of which auto detect that the site is being access via a mobile device, which is a real advantage if they are being accessed from another site (e.g. the library’s website/search tool) rather than via the suppliers website.

What’s best for users though? Many librarians feel that numerous apps are not much use to the average library user – they want access to the content and may not be aware which supplier it comes via. Often subject interests will spread across different suppliers too, so having to search on a number of different mobile apps would be a long process (something that discovery services have tried to prevent) and having things stored in multiple places could be frustrating. For specialist researchers, apps focused on their area may be useful, but the most library users it’s likely that mobile friendly websites will be of more use, particularly if the library has a search tool to search for content across different providers.

Rather than replicate information already out there, we have added our findings to the list of providers on the m-libraries section of the Library Success wiki. Here’s a preview – for the full up-to-date version click on the image to open the section on the wiki.

M-libraries wiki screenshot

M-libraries wiki screenshot

We hope you find this information useful in your own library in supporting your users. If you know any further information about mobile options from suppliers, please let us know or you can register an account on the Library Success wiki and edit it directly.

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