Tag Archives: user survey

What’s in an app? Mobile-ising the library at Birmingham City University

Annmarie Lee

This guest blog post is written by Annmarie Lee, an Assistant Liaison Librarian – Enquiry Services for Library and Learning Resources at Birmingham City University. On a day to day basis she is part of a team that provide enquiry services at the University’s Health library and Art and Design libraries. She has participated in several strategic projects including the development of a single Help Desk within the libraries, the implementation of a library online chat service and more recently the use of mobile technologies in libraries.

The situation

As part of Library and Learning Resources’ Mobile Technologies working group at Birmingham City University, a small working group was established to look at the development of the library facility on the Birmingham City University Mobile App (iBCU).

Surveying other libraries

Our first task was to find out what functionality is currently being offered by libraries through mobile apps. We devised a short survey asking libraries to share with us what their mobile app included.

A total of 28 responses were received from both public and academic libraries both within the UK and internationally.

Respondents indicated that 61% used Apple devices for their library apps, followed closely by 54% using Android devices. 82% indicated that they used a mobile web app (accessed via mobile browser).

In terms of library features, contact details, a facility to search for books and library opening hours prevailed with the highest response rates.  Library locations and account information were also popular features available. The one feature we were particularly interested in was the ability to book library tutorials via a mobile app; however no respondents listed this as a feature of their mobile app. The chart below shows more information on the results:

Which of the features does your library's mobile app have?

Which of the features does your library's mobile app have?

Surveying our users

Following on from this, we decided to survey our users to see what library features they would like to use through a mobile app. In order to avoid a clash with the National Student Survey and also to gain insight from users who may already be familiar with mobile apps, we decided on conducting a Facebook and Twitter poll posing the following question:

Facebook poll for BCU users

Facebook poll for BCU users

Early results indicate that managing library accounts are of most interest, with searching for books, accessing electronic resources like e-books and e-journals, and booking study rooms also likely to be popular features.

What next?

The iBCU app already has a library facility to view your account details. The next step will be to work with ICT to look at the feasibility of adding functionality to this like the ability to renew items. A separate working group has also been established to look at embedding mobile apps like that of the EBSCO database into the existing iBCU app.

CILIP Mobile Technology Executive Briefing

I was invited to present at CILIP’s Mobile Technology Executive Briefing on July 19th, and really enjoyed listening to the other presentations. There was a variety of presentations on a number of different themes:

Rather than go over what each presentation covered, I thought I’d pick up on a few themes which emerged throughout the day.

Mobile app vs. mobile web
This seems to be an ongoing debate and one many people want a quick answer to. Sadly it’s not that straight forward; as with anything it depends in the context (I wrote a blog post about the differences between mobile apps and mobile web which included their advantages and disadvantages). General consensus about which is preferable seems to be shifting slightly as we see the introduction of more smartphones on different operating systems, driving a need for cross-compatible mobile websites rather than native apps. In order to utilise all the functionality of the phone’s hardware though (e.g. using the camera, storing data offline), an app is the way to go. For library resources from publishers, we’re definitely seeing a change to people requesting mobile compatible websites rather than mobile apps, largely because users of the library are encouraged to access resources from a variety of publishers and may not know the publishers who cover their research areas (and often don’t need to know). We’ve been doing some research into the mobile options publishers offer, which we’ll be sharing on the blog soon.

Responsive web design
One potential solution to designing for the mobile web is responsive web design which enables web developers to develop one website which will detect the device and size it is being displayed on and alter its appearance accordingly – see responsive web design demo. This is becoming more popular with major website providers, and a number of libraries are beginning to use this approach. Matthew Reidsma gave a presentation on the topic of responsive web design at the ALA Annual Conference 2012 which you can view online (blog post includes video, slides and other resources). This approach to web design ties in with the findings of Bohyun Kim in her ALA Annual Conference presentation also; that users now expect to use their mobile devices in a similar way to a desktop and therefore expect mobile websites to have the same information as a desktop site. Responsive web design can be a time-consuming process (particularly for large websites with a lot of content) so some feel it is not the right approach to take at present, though I have to say I think it is a useful exercise and believe we should be aiming to offer the same amount of information regardless of the device.

Planning for the future
Many of the people at the event were keen to pick the speaker’s brains about how to plan for the future. The message from James Clay’s presentation was very clear; libraries should be planning for the future now, rather than focusing on the present. But what do we need to plan for? It’s difficult to predict what we’ll be using in the future, especially in an area of such rapid growth. The main priority here is the need to keep up-to-date with the latest developments and consider their implications for libraries. In addition to keeping on top of innovations in technology (by subscribing to technology news feeds and blogs), we also need to consider adoption of the technologies within society and potential trends which may affect the ways users wish to use libraries in future (e.g. changing expectations of mobile websites).

Reliance on providers
Martin White focused his presentation on the offerings of providers (in particular Apple, Google and Microsoft) and it was something mentioned in a number of the presentations. The decisions made by companies like these will impact which technologies are adopted and supported. For example, technologies such as near field communication will become more widespread if more devices include the technology, or QR code use could increase if a QR code reader was a standard part of a mobile devices’ camera rather than a separate app. We need to keep an eye on the technologies used by main technology companies, and also the smaller companies with innovative devices.

Knowing what users want
As with anything, the underpinning message when considering using mobile technology to support library resources and services is understanding what users want.  I was particularly interested to hear from George Buchanan about the feedback they got from students about the way they used mobile devices, and the fact that it was still largely for traditional activities such as calls and texts (though this was a small sample of students). Related to this, a number of projects in the JISC Mobile Infrastructure for Libraries programme have been involved in usability testing and gathering user feedback. See the following blog posts for further information – Usability testing from MACON at Open University and Phone Booth now and into the future from PhoneBooth at LSE. I’m sure others will blog their findings at a later date too.

So what do we do?

In conclusion, I think the main recommendations to take from the presentations and discussions from the CILIP Mobile Technologies Executive Briefing are as follows:

  1. Keep an eye on new developments in terms of mobile devices launches and technologies adopted by mainstream society
  2. Consider how we can utilise existing and cutting edge mobile technologies in our own library environments
  3. Keep ongoing data about the way our users are utilising mobile technologies (e.g. analytics, user surveys, focus groups, observation)
  4. Plan for the future by keeping mobile technologies at the forefront of new developments and regularly performing horizon scans

If you’re interested in finding out more about the event, you may want to look at the archive of #mobiletech2012 tweets.

Mobile Leeds Met Library – developing and promoting our mobile provision

This guest blog post is from Debbie Morris from Leeds Metropolitan University and discusses their research into user needs and their subsequent plans for supporting mobile technologies. Over to Debbie…

Increasingly, Library users at Leeds Metropolitan University are requesting all kinds of mobile access, from expecting that our e-books and digital readings can be viewed on a e-book reader (sounds obvious, opens a huge can of worms) to asking if their timetable is available to view on a smartphone (yes it is!).

What do users want via mobile?

Early in 2012 we conducted a short online survey about mobile access. Over 500 of our users responded.  They told us that the top 5 services they would like to access via a mobile device were:

  • Timetables
  • Emails
  • Virtual Learning Environment
  • University Portal
  • Library Catalogue / Account

Key findings of the survey found:

  • many students feel that an iPhone/Android app is necessary and that the university should already have this feature;
  • more focus needs to be put on advertising the mobile services we already have and how to use/access them (the majority of respondents said accessing timetables and emails would be of great benefit to them – these are services we already have available);
  • when creating any kind of mobile access, focus need to be placed on iPhone, Android and Blackberry;
  • there is an overwhelming feeling against charging for any type of mobile application.

Quick wins

I’m sure we are not alone in needing to look at cost-effective ways of delivering mobile provision.  With this in mind, we have started to work on some quick wins that will make improvements at low/no cost and will only take a short time to develop:

  • produce some custom Library webpages suitable for mobile access/install an open source CMS for mobile access and use this as a portal to all other Library Mobile enabled services;
  • install and configure a low-cost library system API to utilise free Library mobile apps;
  • list journals/databases with mobile access on the new Library mobile site, begin to build each subject area a mobile page;
  • increase the promotion of current services which already provide mobile access.

Long term plans

For the longer term, we are now connecting with colleagues across the University to ensure that our mobile plans complement the direction of the pan-University mobile strategy.

For further information please contact the Project Manager – Adam Watson (@adlab/a.a.watson@leedsmet.ac.uk) or Debbie Morris (@debbiemn/d.morris@leedsmet.ac.uk).

I’ll leave you with a word-cloud summary of responses from our users, when asked, ‘What could we do to improve access from mobile devices for you?’ (my favourite is –buymeaniphone!)

Tag cloud

What could we do to improve access from mobile devices for you? tag cloud

Cambridge Judge Business School mobile app

Meg Westbury

Meg Westbury

This post is a guest blog post from Meg Westbury, Projects Officer for Cambridge Judge Business School Information and Library Services. She tweets at @meg_librarian and blogs at Library Pie.

Founded in 1990, the Cambridge Judge Business School is a world-class business school offering a wide-range of graduate and undergraduate degrees in business and finance. Information & Library Services seek to support the mission of the school by offering a wide variety of electronic and print resources, along with regular workshops in new and social media and experimenting with innovative ways of marketing its services. Over to Meg…

We want a mobile app – library specific or wider organisation app?

In the summer of 2011, we decided to make a library app.  We had just revamped our blog/website, but were not happy with how the site looked on mobile devices.  We thought that an app would be the best way to deliver mobile content, as we reflected that we personally didn’t do much on our smart phones if there wasn’t an app for it!

We planned to develop the app separately from the business school at large, as we thought it would be done quicker that way, but political and collaborative pressures led us in the autumn to team up with other departments to create a school-wide app, one component of which would be for library services.  The app committee that was formed consisted of people from IT, Information & Library Services and staff from the school’s various programmes.

Who is our audience?

From day one, the app has been thought of as being for current students enrolled at the school.  Another approach could have been to make an app for external audiences, which largely presented information about the school’s programmes.  But we wanted to make the app super useful – a Swiss army knife of sorts – that would help students get to information and services they needed quickly.

What do they want?

Initial focus groups

To understand students’ needs, we set up two focus groups to have discussions about what ideally students would want out of an app.  We asked for volunteers for these groups, and we gave them lunch: an approach which yielded two focus groups of about 5 students each, with representation across the school’s programmes.

At the focus groups, we tried to make questions open ended, concentrating on asking about what information students regularly needed to find and what they currently found difficult about the process.  The results were helpful though predictable.  Students mainly felt frustrated about all the different places they needed to go for information (e.g., the school intranet, the library portal, their course VLE, etc.).  With an app – i.e., with a single press of a button – they wanted all their most important information at their fingertips, especially information about timetables, library services, school events and room bookings.

The focus groups were helpful and gave us a starting point for discussions about what the app should do overall, but we still didn’t feel we had a strong sense of what to prioritise and put into the first release.  The focus groups generated a lot of ideas – too many really for the first version of the app —  and we weren’t sure how the larger student body would rank those ideas.

Wider survey

So in January 2012, we developed a general survey for students about what ideally they’d like in an app.  After asking about what programme they were in and about their usage of mobile devices, we asked them to brainstorm how an app could help them and then, in the next question, listed all the suggestions from the focus groups and had the students rank them using a point system.  (We offered 3-£20 vouchers to Amazon as an incentive to complete the survey.)

137 students completed the survey, representing 23% of the students.  53% of the respondents were from the MBA and EMBA programmes, with the remainder from the various Masters, MPhil and PhD programmes.

In terms of mobile device usage, 60% said they use Apple iPhones or iPads, and another 18% use Androids.  12% use Blackberries and 1% use Windows phones.  The remaining respondents use other devices such as the Nokia Symbian.

Not surprisingly, up-to-date information about time tables was first in both the suggestion- and ranking-portions of the survey.  Not-so-predictably, however, was how high library services ranked.  In the free-suggestion part of the survey, library services were the second-most frequently requested feature for the app (tied with information about school news and events).  In the ranking part of the survey, 4 of the top 10 features prioritised by students were aspects of library services.  Wow.

What library services did students ask for?  The top requests were the ability to

  • Access ebooks the library offers, especially those on reading lists
  • Access mobile-friendly research databases
  • Request and renew books
  • Ask a librarian a question

We at Information & Library Services were pleased (ok, chuffed!) with the results, not least because they showed the school that we are not an antiquated little department, quietly guarding our dusty collection of books (which is how we seem to be perceived by some parts of the school).  The students clearly said that along with other crucial information they regularly need, library services were an absolute necessity for their success as students.

So what now?

We are now working intently to have a version of the app ready for the new students in September 2012.  We are proud that the first release will feature library services so prominently.  It feels like a nice reward for all of the outreach, marketing and good public service we’ve done over the past years.  The students very clearly value our resources.