Tag Archives: fact finding survey

Survey analysis – barriers/challenges to implementation

Respondents were asked to indicate any barriers or challenges they had to implementing mobile initiatives. They were given the opportunity to provide open responses as well as choose from a preselected range of answers.  The bar chart below shows the distribution of responses:

Barriers/challenges to implementation

Barriers/challenges to implementation

Some of the open responses provided further information in areas that were covered in the closed response options whilst some responses covered new topics.  Three respondents used the opportunity to state that they foresaw no barrier to development.  Some of the themes emerging from the open responses included:

Not a priority

Of the 46 respondents who indicated that m-library development was not a priority some provided further detail to support this.  This included a number of different situations:

Not a *library* priority. A very high amount of work required on other aspects such as refurbishments and stock  moves means little time for development. If the students aren’t complaining that we don’t have mobile apps/mobile-friendly sites, it’s hard to prioritise above other projects and ‘firefighting’, especially when the development will be time- consuming as it is slightly specialist and new.

The Library itself has mobile accessibility as a major priority, but it doesn’t seem to be ranked as importantly by the University.

There is no expert or interested person who has the time to make this a priority. It is currently seen as an add-on to existing core activities, a nice-to-have.  This may change over time as smart phones become more ubiquitous.


Twenty five respondents provided details of barriers explicitly concerned with cost including costs to the library and to users:

Not enough money to get needed devices (iPods, iPads) for teaching

Cost – not all users can afford mobile technologies (e.g. iPads/smart phones), so we need to develop services which are still accessible to all.

Financial restraints. I believe we know what we need, but require significant resources to either build something in house, or hire someone to build something for us. The adoption of mobile services will probably happen gradually for us, with a mobile catalogue first, and a mobile website at least a year or two away.


Fifteen respondents referred to barriers concerned with time constraints e.g:

Lack of staff time to devote to learning and creating mobile apps

Library Systems is heavily under-resourced and are unable to allocate the time required to develop a mobile interface.


82 respondents had indicated that lack of skills were a barrier to m-library development. This was primarily due to a lack of technical skills in the library, though lack of experience was also mentioned.


A few respondents provided responses which could be considered to see uncertainty as a barrier to development.  It would appear that some of this uncertainty could be addressed by the provision of more information about m-library developments.  Examples of responses included:

The biggest challenge is that there are lots of strategies for creating mobile-friendly resources, but no clear winner. We currently do not use a CMS (though we are looking into it). In the meantime, do we continue to maintain two sites, or revise our current design so that it is mobile-first? What javascript library should we use–is jQuery Mobile worth the pain of learning, or should we look to HTML 5 & CSS 3? etc.

It’s not preventing us, but the variety of devices makes it more difficult to use the mobile technologies; also, the lack of standardization between publishers and content providers of e-resources makes it a challenge to provide access to these materials

Infrastructure /policy

Seventeen respondents referred to barriers which concerned infrastructure or policy issues and in a mixture of internal and external contexts:

We can have a go at some things, but here our web site is not immediately under our control so we can’t create a mobile version, and this doesn’t seem to be a prority although it is one for us. We have better control of the catlagues and use the accessible version to create a reasonable mobile version.

Not all our systems are mobile compatible

Additional comments

Some respondents provided additional comments which do not fit into the above categories and were only reflected in a few cases.  These included:

issues with service provider licenses and permissions.

Misconceptions of ‘mobile technology’, and technical ‘fear’ of the unknown.


It’s clear that at present there are a number of barriers and challenges facing libraries which are prohibiting or delaying implementation of m-library initiatives. Some of these are specific to individual institutions, whilst some are common across a number of libraries. This information is useful for the project and we certainly hope that we can help to reduce some of those barriers, particularly those concerning information about mobile initiatives, and helping provide evidence to equip libraries to tackle other barriers.

Survey analysis – future m-library initiatives

Unsurprisingly (as the survey respondents were self selecting), most were planning m-library initiatives even if they were not currently doing so.

Many of the open responses were similar to current initiatives, such as considering implementing a mobile app/website or improving the capabilities of the one they already have. Some libraries are considering QR codes to link to resources or increasing those that they have available. Rather than replicate the information already shared in the previous post on current m-library initiatives, we’ll share the unique ideas in this post.

Augmented reality

This was mentioned as something two respondents would like to see in future, though probably as a future wishlist rather than something that is currently being planned.

would like to use augmented reality app for library maps (note “would like!”)

NB: In addition to augmented reality for library resources, there are also examples of how augmented reality could help with other library functions, such as an augmented reality app to help with shelving.


Some respondents commented that they hope to support mobile access to their virtual learning environments in future; both Moodle and Blackboard were mentioned.

NFC technology

Near field communication technology was also mentioned, though again more of a wishlist item than a concrete plan:

Investigating use of mobile phones in libraries using nfc technology



Many respondents are interested in developing their support for mobile technologies and are either in the planning stage or evaluating the potential that such developments would offer, particularly with regards to mobile website or app, and mobile catalogue. There are also a number that are watching developments closely but adopting a wait and see approach.  Hopefully the information we share during the project should help those that are in the planning stages or hope to implement them in future, as well as support those interested in cutting edge developments.

Survey analysis – current m-library initiatives

Respondents were asked if their library was currently utilising mobile technologies, and over half of respondents said yes:

Of those that said yes, the following themes emerged (in order of popularity, each being mentioned more than 5 times):

  • Mobile catalogue
  • Mobile website
  • QR codes
  • Supporting use of mobile services/apps
  • Mobile app for library
  • Institutional mobile app
  • Mobile devices to support roving reference/staff demonstrations
  • Loaning mobile devices
  • SMS communication about borrower record (due dates etc.)

Mobile catalogue

Many of those with a mobile catalogue are using vendor supplied modules or apps to facilitate this (e.g. AirPAC, BookMyne, Talis Prism). Worldcat was also mentioned as an option used to support mobile catalogue functionality, which is supported in a number of apps as well as having its own app. LibraryAnywhere by LibraryThing was a popular response – this sits on top of most LMSs and is a commercial option for those who want a mobile add-on with app functionality:

We are using LibraryThing’s mobile catalogue ‘Library Anywhere’ as a low-cost OPAC alternative – implemented a couple of months ago. (It does nice granular stats!)

Searching for items is the most common use for these mobile catalogues, with many utilising mobile technologies such as searching for items by scanning the barcode of a book with the phone camera. Account management is another common feature, with most mobile catalogues enabling users to request, renew and check their loans.

Mobile website

The majority of respondents with a mobile website for their library had developed it in house – some as part of a wider organisational mobile website, others as a specific library mobile website:

We are designing a mobile version of the library’s web presence, because the institution isn’t ready to do so across campus.

Those that mentioned the content on these websites demonstrated that the mobile website contains a cut down version of the full website, just offering the core features (those requested frequently and those appropriate to mobile devices):

We have created a simple mobile website for our library- it does not offer nearly as many options as our full site- but just the most frequently requested information (hours, contact information, Ask Us, etc.)

QR codes

QR code use in the library included the following ideas:

  • Used on posters and other publications (e.g. leaflets, guides) to promote mobile resources and ebooks
  • Used around the library for guidance (e.g. On photocopier with link to guidance on how to use)
  • Used on book shelf signs (presumably to link to catalogue search or electronic resources in that area)
  • Used to link to catalogue records
  • Used for activities/promotions within the library

One library commented that they were used during Freshers Week to help familiarise students with the library, and another uses QR codes for adventures.

N.B. If you are interested in using QR codes for scavenger hunts, Charles Darwin University gave a presentation on this topic at an m-libraries conference.

Supporting use of databases and other library services with mobile access

For libraries that do not have their own mobile friendly website/catalogue/app, their users may still be able to utilise mobile websites or apps from providers they subscribe to. Many respondents commented that they help to promote these by compiling a list of mobile compatible websites/apps on the library website, or notifying users of relevant apps via library website, blog etc. One example of this is Tapsnaps – a blog written by library staff to alert users to useful apps (created on Blogger and therefore also mobile friendly itself).

This work on highlighting mobile resources and supporting users with them tends to be on an ad hoc basis, as highlighted by this respondent:

We’re providing users with details of mobile apps for databases when they become available, but in a fairly unstructured way, rather than as a project.  Ideally, we’d be in a position to publicise all mobile technologies and services which are currently available and relevant to our users, and provide advice on how to use them, etc., but sufficient staff time has not been available yet.

Library app

Whilst not as common a response as a mobile website, some respondents’ libraries have a mobile app.
Some of the apps mentioned in the survey were developed by the library, whilst some were developed by a central IT service (and one was developed by a student!). Examples of the sorts of functionality in a library app are explained by this comment:

In-house developed mobile application; library catalogue is searchable, logged-in patron record displayed, including outstanding fines, books currently on loan etc. Roadmap for development includes provision of reading lists, requesting book return, return book alerts etc.

Working with institutional app

Some of the respondents’ libraries have access to an app as part of a wider institutional mobile app. Some of these are developed in house, whilst CampusM by oMbiel and Boopsie for Libraries were also mentioned. Many of the respondents with such apps commented that the app was compatible across a number of different devices and mobile platforms:

The University has just introduced a mobile app (compatible with iPhones and with Android devices, Blackberry to follow) which is student-facing and presents a small selection of services which all currently available via other web-based services.

We have developed and launched an app with a US partner company Boopsie.  It runs on all smartphones and whilst currently library-centric is intended to be the main app for the University.

The University has launched a University mobile app which includes access to some library services including our ‘find a PC’ application and our ‘Ask a Librarian’ chat facility.  From January 2012 we will also be providing access to library account and our opac search, plus our Twitter feeds and information services guide, plus opening hours through the app.

Provision of mobile devices for library staff to use around the library (roving reference/demos/staff work)

Roving reference has been a common development in libraries in recent years, and this has been further supported by mobile technologies such as mobile phones and tablet computers. A number of libraries in the survey are using these to deliver support for enquiries around the library, as well as using them to demonstrate library resources and increase staff productivity:

Roving support using mobile technology to support Q&A on the move.

We are beginning to use tablets to demonstrate ebooks.

Currently use iPads/Tablets iPod Touches as support tools for library staff. Used for research and client advice, collection of statistics. Managers are using iPads in addition to laptops for productivity.

Loaning mobile devices
Some libraries are loaning out mobile devices such as iPads, Kindles, and other tablets and e-readers, often as a trial project at present:

an iPad on Loan project where we lend out iPads full with productivity, communication and medical Apps, http://ipadscmb.pbworks.com

One respondent highlighted that there can be issues with lending devices, particularly as they tend to be geared towards personal use. Most of the libraries lending these devices tend to pre-load them with resources to loan rather than individual users downloading their own books/apps.

SMS communication about borrower record

Common use of SMS communication about borrower record is to alert users to remind them when their books are due for return. Other uses include notifications that reservations or interlibrary loans have arrived, and users being able to send SMS with book details from the catalogue to their phone.

Other examples

Other examples of m-library initiatives included:

  • E-readers/e-books
  • Library educational apps
  • Testing/support on mobile devices
  • Mobile discovery service
  • Mobile strategy
  • Mobile information literacy support/use of mobiles in teaching
  • SMS/mobile reference
  • Research into moible technologies/use
  • QR codes in the catalogue
  • Mobile technology interest groups
  • Implementing supplier mobile website
  • Providing APIs
  • Offline caching
  • Loaning devices to use QR codes
  • SMS information
  • Reading group


There are a lot of really interesting initiatives already happening in m-libraries, with many commonalities across the library sector. As part of the project we plan to investigate these in more details and share best practice to prevent duplication and reinventing the wheel. We’ll be in touch with some of you who left details to see if we can help write these up as case studies for wider dissemination. Please continue to add your examples to add to our list.

Fact finding survey – overview

Many thanks to those of you who completed the fact finding survey we recently published – we had an incredible response and we’re now looking through all the data. We’ll be publishing a number of blog posts over the next couple of weeks to share the findings, and will be using some of the examples you shared to help us with our project.

We had 182 responses to the survey, with the following sector breakdown:

Respondents by sector

Those who chose ‘Other’ were predominantly from health or hospital libraries, whilst we had one responder each from state library, research library, IT Services, and a joint academic and health library. We had no responses from school libraries.

The majority of respondents were from the UK (66%), with other responses from the USA (22%), Australia (6%), Canada (4%), Europe, Africa, Ireland, South America and Asia.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the methods used to disseminate the survey and the self-selecting nature of participants, many of the respondents libraries either already have m-library initiatives (63%) or are planning them in future (90%).

The most common barriers/challenges were lack of technical support, not knowing enough about how to utilise mobile technologies, and it not being a priority for the library or wider organisation.

Participants would like more information and case studies sharing experiences from libraries who have already implemented m-library initiatives, reviews and how to guidance, and a central hub for m-library information.

Suggestions for an m-library community included a place to find and share experience and best practice, technical advice and support (including open source software support), and general help and guidance.

More detailed analysis for specific sections of the survey will follow in a series of blog posts over the next couple of weeks.

If you have any examples of good practice you think we should investigate as part of the project (either your own projects or ones you know about), please submit an example – we’re building quite a list now and it’s great to find out about so many interesting projects. We’ll be looking through all the examples and sharing any useful information or case studies later in the project as well as blogging and tweeting throughout – follow the #mlibs saved search to receive these.