This guest post is written by Chris Langham, Deputy Systems Librarian at Birmingham City University. It is also published on the BCU eLibrary blog.
In May 2008, we started sending out Library SMS Notifications at Birmingham City University. Initially this was just for library material that was 18 days overdue, but has since been extended to include a range of other notifications. The types of notifications which we now send by SMS include:
1. Items 8 days overdue
2. Items 18 days overdue
3. Reserved material ready to be collected
4. Physical Inter Library Loan ready to be collected.
While this service was primarily targeted at students, any borrower with a mobile number in their library record can be sent these notifications.
In February 2009, we started sending SMS notifications for library material which was 8 days overdue. Following this change, we saw a drop in the number of 18 day overdue emails of between 25% and 50%. Library material was getting back into circulation sooner and students were paying less in Library fines. After we started sending out SMS informing borrowers that their reservation was ready to be collected, we found that there were fewer uncollected reservations and reservations were spending less time on the shelf waiting to be collected.
The service has been almost universally popular among students and there have been very few drawbacks to sending SMS. Although, the cost of sending SMS inhibits us using it for sending other reminders, such as sending an SMS reminder on the date that the item is due. Another concern is the accuracy of student mobile phone numbers. Students give mobile numbers at the start of their course or on course application, and they don’t always inform their Faculty when they get a new mobile number.
Is anyone else using SMS in this way? Any feedback to share?
So now we’ve handled what we mean by mobile, now it’s time to consider the concept of m-libraries*. In a nutshell:
Mobile devices + libraries = m-libraries
You may have heard of the successful m-libraries and Handheld Librarian conferences, or read some of their conference proceedings or related blog posts. The scope for m-libraries is vast – basically any initiative that enables the use of mobile devices in libraries could be included under this umbrella. This could include (though is not limited to):
- Accessing library content via mobile devices (e.g. e-books, e-journals, special collections)
- Using SMS to support enquiries or provide information to users
- Developing a mobile interface for a library website or library catalogue
- Using QR codes around the library to link to electronic content accessible by mobile devices
- Staff using mobile devices within the library to support roving enquiries
- Developing a dedicated mobile app to provide library content to users
- Utilising augmented reality within the library (e.g. special collections) using cameras on mobile devices
- Using mobile devices to interact with the library (e.g. renewing books, checking in on location services, doing tasks via mobile devices for points/rewards)
As the m-library support project is JISC-funded, our primary focus is academic libraries in UK, though we are also interested in innovative projects further afield which we could learn from (e.g. in different types of libraries or in academic libraries outside the UK).
We’ll be sharing relevant information and links we find on the blog as well as gathering case studies to develop a web presence to share these examples. If you have any examples you think might be relevant for us to examine as part of the project, please submit an example via our form.
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*The project’s official title is the mobile library support project but owing to the existing mobile library concept (i.e. library on wheels!) we chose to adopt the m-library name.