As I discussed last Friday, the vast majority of our patrons will own smartphones very soon. How can libraries serve our rapidly growing smartphone user population? Here are four “smart” ideas (get it?):
1) Say yes to cell phones!
I love “Yes Libraries”, and really this is how all libraries should be if they want to provide the best possible customer service and experience to their users. So, in order to make sure you are saying yes to your patrons, make sure that you are allowing users to actually use their cell phones in the library. Avoiding signs like this would be a good place to start:
And if a patron has their library card barcode on their phone through an app like Key Ring, if your scanner will read it, for the love of Melvil Dewey, let them use it to check out items! If they are able to use these types of apps at grocery stores, pharmacies, and other businesses in your community without any problems, why should the library be any different? Remember, just say Yes!
2) Build a mobile website
You can build a mobile website for free, and it doesn’t have to be difficult (translation: you don’t have to be a programmer to do it). This iLibrarian blog entry provides a few options for you with a quick summary of each tools features.
3) Build an app (or buy an app)
According to Pew, “Some 35% of U.S. adults have software applications or “apps” on their phones, yet only 24% of adults use those apps.” Thus, I don’t think you necessarily have to go out and build an app for your library in order to feel like you are keeping up with your smartphone users needs. And even if you do, wouldn’t you essentially have to build two, one for iPhone users and one for Android users? And perhaps three if you want to include Blackberry users? There are several libraries and institutions that have built apps, such as Oregon State University. Obviously, building apps isn’t easy, and you need to have the technical expertise to do this, or, if you have an extra $6500 lying around (doesn’t every library these days?), you might be able to pay someone to develop an app for you. Alternatively, you could buy an app from a library vendor, such as this.
4) Utilize QR codes
If you don’t know what a QR code is, read this definition. As they say, the fun way to describe a QR code is a “barcode on steroids”. QR codes are sometimes described as a way to link the physical world with the digital world. QR codes are ideal for adding value to objects and making them social. My brilliant colleague Bonnie Roalsen first talked about QR codes in libraries several years ago. I am going to blog much more about QR Codes in the near future, but the Library Success Wiki has a lot of great examples of how libraries across the country are using QR Codes to do everything from text reference to helping users find specific resources in their collection.
How is your library currently serving smartphone users? Do you have a mobile website? A library app? Do you use QR Codes in your library?
Photo credit: Travelin’ Librarian