Category Archives: Evidence gathering

Library mobile apps – what features do they have?

Myself and one of my colleagues at Birmingham City University are interested in finding out what functionality is currently being offered by libraries through mobile apps. If your library has a mobile app, please complete our very short survey to share with us what your mobile app includes. We’ll be sharing the aggregated results on the blog afterwards.

The survey is available at:

End of project survey – methods to support current and future m-library initiatives

This is part of a series of blog posts on the end of project fact finding survey.

Respondents were asked to indicate from a pre-determined list the methods that they would use to support current and future m-library initiatives in their library/information service. Most respondents plan to use a selection of sources, including (in order of popularity):

  • Keeping up-to-date with mobile technology
  • Case studies
  • Attending and following events
  • Reading/following existing research
  • Sharing and reading information via social media
  • Library/librarian blogs
  • Social media discussions
  • How-to guides
  • Mailing lists
  • Conducting own research
  • Project blogs

Other responses included collaborative projects (with other organisations or others within the organisation who may be more knowledgeable), dicsussion with/learning from colleagues, in house training/awareness sessions, creating your own m-library initiative, video demonstrations, and support from suppliers.

Some comments gave a little more detail:

Practical demos and sessions are always the most fulfilling so you can see the technology in action. This is what people remember.

Good case studies in relevant types of libraries (in our case engineering and industrial) might help.

Hopefully this blog will be one place to help signpost to these sources of information.

End of project survey – confidence in implementing mobile technologies

This is part of a series of blog posts on the end of project fact finding survey.

We were interested to find out the confidence level in implementing mobile technologies. The figure below shows the results:

Bar chart to show level of confidence in implementing mobile technologies

Bar chart to show level of confidence in implementing mobile technologies

Fortunately, the majority of respondents (72%) felt confident or very confident about implementing mobile technologies in the libraries. However, 26% did not feel confident, and 2% did not feel at all confident.

The comments explaining the reasons for these responses tended to relate to:

  • infrastructure
  • knowledge and skills
  • support from management
  • resources (e.g. time and money) to work on development

Lack of support at senior manager level as well as IT refusing to support mobile technologies (not confident response)

We have the knowledge & skills available, it’s just a case of implementation when we have time (confident response)

We are confident in our ability to offer these services once we have the technology and time to do so, but we’re not so confident that we will be able to find the time to implement these initiatives (confident response)

Flexible strategy in place with full senior management backing and growing expertise among Library staff (very confident response)

The responses emphasise the importance of having these elements in place in order for the staff to feel confident to implement mobile technologies.

End of project survey – barriers/challenges to implementation

This is part of a series of blog posts on the end of project fact finding survey.

We added some additional categories to the question about barriers/challenges based on the open responses to the last survey. We also asked an additional question about the primary barrier to discover which are the biggest barriers at present.

Barriers/challenges to utilising mobile technologies

Barriers/challenges to utilising mobile technologies

As can be seen from the graph, resource constraints are experienced by the majority of respondents (79%), with infrastructure/policy constraints being experience from almost half of respondents (47%). Other barriers and challenges were also present to a varying degree, and some added other barriers, including:

  • Traditional mindset of library staff/management resulting in risk averse culture and a steep learning curve if staff were to get involved
  • Vendors investing in separate apps rather than supporting access via library websites
  • Lack of third party support for mobile resources (e.g. catalogue, e-journals and databases)

When asked what the primary barrier was, the following pie chart shows the results:

Primary barrier to utilising mobile technologies

Primary barrier to utilising mobile technologies

As shown, resource constraints are the primary barrier for a large proportion (46%) of respondents. Infrastructure/policy constraints are the primary barrier for 17% of respondents, whilst licensing concerns, lack of technical support and not an organisation priority are also primary barriers for over 5% of respondents each.

A number of solutions were suggested to overcome barriers and challenges to utilising mobile technologies. These included:

  • Quick wins/low cost solutions
  • Demonstrating a clear business case
  • Staff changes (additional staffing or re-assigning staff duties)
  • Partnerships (internal and external)
  • Staff training
  • Learn from best practice of other libraries
  • Outsourcing

Comments and plans recommending ways for the barriers to be overcome included:

initially go for quick wins, using apps/services that are free or low cost, whilst beginning to embed mobile considerations into university processes and projects

We hope that clearly demonstrating the potential benefits for the student experience may result in funding being made available for mobile app development

We recently created a new position for a Digital Branch Manager, which helps shape our vision for all digital services, mobile included, and added 1 FTE to our IT staff

Utilising expertise from other departments (e.g. IT department) and other institutions

We are actively seeking partnerships with other businesses in the form of affiliate partnerships, donations, and advertising revenue

Keep trying to acquire good practice from others to save on development costs

End of project survey – future m-library initiatives

This is part of a series of blog posts on the end of project fact finding survey.

Interestingly, when asked if their library was considering using mobile technologies to support any aspect of the service or resources provision in future, less people responded yes (81.8%) than in the first survey (90.4%). This still shows the majority intend to incorporate mobile technologies in future plans, though may represent a slight decrease in planning (or could be due to a different sample of respondents.

Is your library/information service considering using mobile technologies to support any aspect of the service or resource provision in future?

Is your library/information service considering using mobile technologies to support any aspect of the service or resource provision in future?

Many of those who planned to use mobile technologies in this way in future did not yet know how they planned to use them (probably a sensible approach with things changing so rapidly!). Those who had started planning for future included the following (in order of popularity):

  • Roving support (using tablets for reference enquiries, demonstrations and supporting teaching)
  • Mobile catalogue
  • Mobile app
  • Mobile website
  • Mobile access to resources
  • SMS
  • Loaning mobile devices
  • Social media
  • QR codes
  • Mobile web chat/enquiry service
  • Augmented reality
  • Strategy development
  • Near Field Communication/Radio-Frequency Identification
  • Supporting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
  • Bibliographic management

Many of these are similar to the existing or current m-library initiatives, though it is interesting to note a few additions to the usual list such as mobile web chat, strategy development, near field communication and radio-frequency identification, supporting bring your own device, and bibliographic management.

End of project survey – current m-library initiatives

This is part of a series of blog posts on the end of project fact finding survey.

In the first fact finding survey, we discovered a number of different areas libraries were working on. Using the broad categories from the results of the first survey, we used the end of project survey as an opportunity to see which were most popular. The results are shown below:

Current m-library services offered

Current m-library services offered

Those who selected ‘other’ included additional explanation on the categories selected as well as the following areas:

  • Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare)
  • Location of free PCs in library
  • Status of printers in library
  • Mobile discovery tool
  • SMS reference service
  • Access to mobile content (e.g. ebooks, audiobooks, music)
  • Mobile e-learning website or VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)
  • Mobile chat (enquiry service)
  • Newswire from news agencies
  • Teaching/instruction on mobile devices
  • SMS to send bibliographic data from website to phone
  • Mobile LibGuides

When asked if they were currently involved in any m-library iniative projects, 61% of survey respondents said yes. In order of popularity, areas which were currently being worked on were as follows:

  1. Mobile access to resources
  2. Mobile apps (for library or wider organisation)
  3. Mobile website
  4. Mobile catalogue
  5. Using mobile devices to support roving reference
  6. QR codes
  7. SMS
  8. Loaning mobile devices
  9. Augmented reality
  10. Social media

The results from these two section of the survey suggest that perhaps QR codes are already well used in libraries, and are therefore not a main priority for further development in many libraries (though are still being developed in others). Mobile catalogue is also available for a number libraries, but this is still being added for other libraries. Mobile access to resources is a main priority for many libraries in terms of current projects and initiatives, as shown by a sample of comments:

Ensuring all online services are mobile-friendly

Developing a web page which details mobile versions of information resources.

We’re just finishing a project to address the challenges involved in providing mobile access to eresources through a discovery tool

I have asked our systems team to promote the implementation of a mobile version of our discovery service for the coming academic year

The results also suggest that more libraries are looking at utilising mobile devices to support roving reference (i.e. staff using tablet computers to help users at the point of need) and also loaning mobile devices (primarily Kindles or iPads).

End of project survey – overview

Thanks again to those of you who completed the end of project fact finding survey we ran earlier this year. As before (see blog posts from previous fact finding survey), we’ll be publishing summary blog posts over the next couple of weeks sharing the findings from the different parts of the survey.

There were 138 responses to the survey, primarily from the academic library sector (68%).

Respondents by sector

Respondents by sector

The ‘other’ responses included health or hospital libraries, government libraries and law libraries.

The majority of respondents were from the UK (65%), with other respondents from the USA (28.9%), Canada (2%), Australia, Belgium and Turkey.

The majority of the respondents’ libraries either already have m-library initiatives (92%), or are currently working on m-library projects or services (61%) – unsurprising due to self-selected nature of sample. Common uses at present included (in order of frequency):

  • QR codes
  • Mobile catalogue
  • Mobile website
  • Guides to support the use of mobile services/apps
  • Mobile app for the institution
  • Using mobile devices to support roving reference
  • Loaning mobile devices
  • Mobile app for the library
  • SMS communication about borrower record

82% of respondents plan to implement additional m-library initiatives in future, though many did not have concrete plans in place and would follow developments to see which would be most relevant for their library. For those who did have plans, many included initiatives already mentioned. More innovative ideas included a mobile enquiry service, augmented reality, NFC/RFID, and supporting bring your own device (BYOD).

Barriers to development of m-library initiatives were experienced by a large proportion of respondents (95% gave at least one barrier). When asked to indicate the primary barrier, the main issues were resource constraints (46%) and infrastructure constraints (17%). A number of suggestions were made with regards to overcoming barriers, including quick wins/low costs solutions, a strong business case, staffing changes, and internal or external partnerships.

Though there are still some who do not feel at all confident implementing mobile technologies at their library, 72% felt confident or very confident. Confidence correlated with having infrastructure in place, support from management, and the resources to work on development.

Respondents planned to inform developments in a number of different ways, planning to keep up-to-date with mobile technologies, use case studies, attend or follow events, read or follow existing research, sharing and reading social media, library/librarian blogs, social media discussion, how-to guides, and mailing lists.

More detailed analysis for specific sections of the survey will follow next week using the using the end of project survey tag.

Project article – Supporting the experimental and innovative m-library community

CILIP Multimedia Information and Technology Group (MMIT) have recently released a special edition of their journal on mobile technologies. The journal is available to MMIT members, and an open access version of our article is available by clicking the image below.

MmIT Nov 2012 cover

Click the image to download the PDF of our article

How are libraries using QR codes?

This is the third post in a tips and tricks series about QR codes. The full series includes an introduction to QR codes, tracking QR codes, examples of how they are being used in libraries, and best practice tips.

So how are libraries using QR codes? Some of the more popular uses are listed in this post with links to examples. You may have some ideas of your own already, so please don’t be restricted to the ideas in this post.

Item records in OPAC

Adding QR codes to OPACs can help users get the information about resources onto their phone easily without having to take notes. Cutting scraps of paper to replenish supplies by OPACs used to take up so much of my time on an enquiry desk so this is a very welcome development for both staff and users! University of Bath were one of the pioneering institutions using QR codes in their library catalogue (see example):

By reading the code, you can save the Title, Author and Classmark of the book you are viewing on the catalogue to help you find it on the shelves

Senate House Library also has QR codes in their catalogue and you can read a full case study of QR codes at Senate House Library including what led them to implement it, how they did it, how it has been received, and future developments.

Linking to electronic resources from within the library

Another common use is to help promote electronic resources from with the library, ideally at the point of need. Often library resources are available in both print and electronic format and a QR code can be used to link to the electronic equivalent from with the shelves. University of Bedfordshire use posters to highlight ebook versions of texts in high demand (particularly useful if all print books are out on loan):

Ebook QR code poster

Ebook QR code poster

You could also use QR codes to link to relevant web resources for particular areas within the library, for example linking to subject guides, relevant websites or online reports near the books for that topic.

Guidance on how to use equipment or services

There’s a whole host of equipment to use in a library, much of which might need some explaining – particularly printers, copiers, laminators and binding machines. Of course signage can help, but a QR code can be used to link to a step-by-step guide online, or a video of the equipment being used.

They can also be used to direct people to get help – either by providing them with help contacts, opening an SMS message to the library contact number, or a webpage with facility to ask for help (i.e. virtual reference).

Additional information or calls to action on posters and handouts

We all know libraries love our posters, but sometimes they can get a little text heavy. A QR code could be used to link to additional information leaving the poster free for just the essential information. They can also be used to direct people to a certain website, often used for survey or to gather feedback.

They can be used in the same way on handouts, linking either to an online version of the guide (so that this can be bookmarked for future reference), additional information, or contact details of staff members.

QR codes on handouts at University of Huddersfield

QR codes on handouts at University of Huddersfield

Additional information about library space and booking study rooms

QR codes can be used to explain different areas of the library, particularly special collections or  unique areas of the library. The photograph below was taken at Staffordshire University outside a room which had recently been invested in and had lots of innovative technologies. The QR code directs you to a webpage with further information about the equipment in the room and its use (apologies for the poor quality but you get the idea!)

Explanatory QR codes at Staffordshire University

Explanatory QR codes at Staffordshire University

Some libraries are using also QR codes on the signs on study rooms to enable people to book them directly from their mobile devices.

Treasure/scavenger hunts

QR codes can be used to great effect to introduce users to the library by setting up treasure/scavenger hunts (for more information on this see our pathway to best practice guide 1). LSE Library have used these during induction period for new students.

LSE Library QR code treasure hunt

LSE Library QR code treasure hunt

What next?

Raring to go? You might want to hold fire for a moment, as there are some further considerations for using QR codes. The next post in the series tackles these and recommends best practice for implementing QR codes.