Four smart ideas for serving smartphone users

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:

Nothing says "Welcome to the library smartphone users!" like this sign, eh?

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

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Why smartphones are the greatest thing since sliced banana bread, and proof that everyone will have one soon

Photo courtesy of ste3ve (

One of the areas that I am really interested in is mobile technology.  In the past year, not only did I get my first smartphone, but I also got an iPad, and both of these devices have really changed and enhanced my life, especially my smartphone.  Now, I don’t just use my cell phone to make calls and text people.  I use it to get my news on the go, listen to Chicago sports radio live in my car (even though I live in Boston), make intelligence and money-saving purchasing decisions at the store, find great restaurants in unfamiliar neighborhoods, measure my speed and track my distance on jogs through my neighborhood, and so much more! If you own a smartphone, you know exactly what I am talking about.  If you don’t, I assure you, you will understand very soon just what a life changing experience it is to own a smartphone.  I am very interested in collaborating with others to figure out how libraries can serve a greater role in this life changing experience for smartphone users.

Not ready to jump on the smartphone bandwagon? Well, you should be! Just look at the statistics:

1) Nearly everybody has a cell phone:

85% of all Americans own a cell phone as of seven months ago (including about half of all Americans 75 and older).  And of these 85%…

2) More than half of cell phone users will have a smartphone by the end of this year!

By the looks of this chart, I am predicting that about 95% of all cell phone owners will have smartphones by the end of 2014.  But do these numbers include all of the populations we serve?

3) Yes! We aren’t just talking about the white population.  In fact, many minority groups have above-average smartphone adoption rates:

In fact, smartphones are helping to close the digital divide.

I think these numbers illustrate just how critical it is for our libraries to offer mobile services to our patrons.  So, how can libraries serve our rapidly growing smartphone user population? I will discuss some ideas early next week.  Right now, I need to grab my smartphone and go for a jog on this beautiful late April day here in the Boston area.

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Sometimes failure is an option

I love TED Talks.  If you aren’t familiar with TED, I encourage you to learn more about this non-profit organization.  I noticed the other day on TED the following talk by former General Stanley McChrystal, and this really surprised me as I didn’t think former military leaders fit the profile nor the politics of your typical TED Talk presenter.  If you look at the comments, apparently a lot of people feel this way. However, regardless of your politics, I think this is a good talk on leadership in today’s world, and the difficulties that come with it:

I think why I appreciate this talk is that it addresses the issue of failure, and I believe that one of the major reasons many libraries don’t adapt to provide the best possible service to their users is because they are afraid to fail.  According to McChrystal, “leaders can let you fail, and yet not let you be a failure”.  I have worked in environments where failure was “not an option” and I have worked in environments where I was encouraged to try new things (and, if a new program or idea didn’t succeed, it was a learning experience for all, and not a personal failure).  What about you? What is your work environment like? Is failure acceptable?


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Hi, I’m Ryan Livergood.  Welcome to my new blog!  I decided to start this blog as a way to connect and collaborate with other librarians across the country and ultimately discuss how we can work together to lead our libraries into the 21st century and beyond.  Like many of you, I have some concerns about the field of librarianship.  What are some of these concerns?  I am concerned that there are not enough librarians stepping up as leaders in our field.  I am concerned about the people we serve, about our communities, about providing the best possible customer service possible.  I am concerned that too many libraries across the country are losing the battle to keep libraries as an essential community service.  I am concerned that many libraries are behind the curve in embracing technology, more specifically, mobile technology.  I am concerned about the lack of Common Sense Librarianship.

This is a blog by a librarian for librarians, but hopefully it will appeal to anyone interested in leadership and mobile technology as well.  I am looking forward to connecting with you all!

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