Reflection Blog #4 Mobile Devices at the Library

I have a smartphone. I can usually find it sitting on my kitchen counter, the battery dead, the phone line quiet. I pay a monthly fee for this service (crazy, I know). I am one of the few people that is not connected to my phone, it is not an extension of myself. Although I am the minority, as it is expected by 2020, three short years from now, 50 billion mobile devices will be connecting people worldwide (Stephens, p.1). I believe it, we have probably already reached that number. As I examine the people around me constantly checking their phones I sometimes feel as though I am missing out. I am not anti mobile devices, I just find that I can easily get distracted with ‘me time”, responding to texts and playing candy crush, which takes precious time from my children, my studies, my life which I cannot afford to lose (Stephens, p.4). Maybe after graduate school I will recharge the battery and become part of this technical world where information can be retrieved in the palm of my hand.

After reading the articles in Module 10, I got really excited about the future of mobile devices and what this means for information professionals. I do not view them as a threat, instead I look at mobile devices as an opportunity for libraries and librarians to meet users information needs in a whole different realm. I especially enjoyed the article on Beacons. My marketing/retail background kicked in and I could imagine all sorts of possibilities Beacons could be used for. They can target specific audiences and promote services, products, information, and programs. Promoting the library to people through their mobile devices; which they can save the information or pass along to a friend, is a wonderful marketing tool to promote the many activities occurring at the library. I have always thought our library could do a much better job at marketing their programs. The librarians put so much time and effort into their events and it’s such a shame when just a handful of people attend. I am always reminded of my marketing manager saying “It’s great to throw a party, but who did you invite?”. Meaning you can have the best planned event but if no-one shows up then it was meaningless. Well, beacons could help spread the word of the many great events occurring at the library.

Another opportunity to spread the news about all the wonderful programs occurring at the library is through library Apps. I love my library App. My family checks it daily, mostly to see the new release items. But I think apps make it real simple for people to check out all the cool things at the library. The key is to make the App fun, easy, and interactive. Every library needs an app that customers want to check daily to learn about fun activities and collections at the library.

Now to switch gears for a moment because this module also brings to mind a conversation occurring at my library. Customers have downloaded their library card onto their mobile devices and present their mobile phone to us instead of their physical library card when checking out resources. Library management is currently reviewing the library’s  ‘check out’ policies and this is being considered. The question is “Should every library customer have to provide their physical library card or is it acceptable to use their mobile device to check out materials?” My husband recently discovered an App which stores all his cards into his phone. He thinks this is marvellous because he does not always carry the appropriate loyalty cards with him, but he Always has his phone. If he, someone I would not consider very technical, has discovered a use for this App, then I would expect many more of our customers will be checking out books via devices. Personally I do not see a difference between presenting a library card or your phone with your library number. The argument is that if someone wanted to use Visa or MasterCard they would be expected to show their card. Phones seem to have many security features, password or thumb print protection, which in my mind, be good enough to ensure the person is checking out items to their own card. We’ll see how this conversation unfolds at the library.


Stephens, M. (2015). Serving users when and where they are: Hyperlinked libraries.

Enis, M. (2014). “Beacon” Technology Deployed by Two Library App Makers.


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14 Responses to Reflection Blog #4 Mobile Devices at the Library

  1. @calsop I hope the folks weighing the decision about library cards realizes that whatever makes it more convenient for the user, the better. The argument about credit cards could be countered with “What about Apple Pay, etc?” Most probably if someone is carrying their card info on their phones, they are carrying a whole bunch of other more sensitive data too! Let us know what happens.

  2. Profile photo of Sara Latham

    @calsop I admit that my phone is an extension of myself. I love it. It has proven to save me in many circumstances. Recently, I was trying to renew my mother’s license plate sticker, and she had lost her registration card. I was at the DMV, and my nephew was able to snap a picture of my mom’s licence plate and VIN number, and I was able to get the sticker without leaving and losing my place in the very long line. Yay for phones. In this day and age of passwords, I admittedly have a secret digital location storing all of my user ids and passwords. Given that I am the in-house accountant in my family, I am the keeper of the secret accesses. I had to find a way to store the information, keep it updated, and readily available for the heir to this responsibility.

    I love the idea of beacons. This technology can be very useful. 🙂

  3. Profile photo of Ramblings of Sharu

    Thought I should let you know that in Toronto, users can carry their card on their phones, and we also accept electronic ID when making a card for the first time, because how many of us actually walk around with a piece of photo ID and a phone bill/bank bill etc to prove their address?

    • Profile photo of Carolyne Alsop

      @sharu I hope our library explores other library’s policies on devices, maybe adapting a similar policy to the one in TO? It makes sense in an increasingly mobile world to have more flexible rules.

  4. Profile photo of Erin Lybrand-Wenz

    @calsop I kind of love that your users have the ability to download their cards to their phones. My local library system is not quite there yet. If I want to use their app or book something on their website, I have to enter my 500 digit barcode, my name, and a pin. It’s the most frustratingly backwards experience. I’m never near my library card (or “convenient” keychain card), so I’ve saved a photo of of it in my phone.

  5. Profile photo of VeronicaMVM

    @calsop I hope that all libraries move towards allowing patrons to check out with a “virtual card”. When we were moving towards self-check out at my former library (2010), it quickly became apparent that if we wanted patrons to be “self-sufficient” then we would have to allow for them to be able to “punch in” their card numbers. Many patrons memorize their card numbers. If the service model was going to be self-driven, then there had to be an option for folks who don’t carry their physical card to input their number. As an added measure of security, patrons also had to provide the password attached to that account.
    At a more recent job in the computer lab, we encourage people to save their numbers on their devices. The current circulation desk policy is to only look up a customer’s card once a year. I didn’t strictly abide by that policy (don’t tell my coworkers!). When providing the elusive number I would remind patrons to save it in the notes app on their phone or even take a picture. Once their identity was confirmed with a state issued ID as per policy, I wanted them to always have easy access to our computers even if they forgot their cards. I do have my phone with me all the time (in fact it dinged at me just now!). I like to share alternative ways I use it with others. Thanks for your post. -Veronica

    • Profile photo of Carolyne Alsop

      @veronicamanthei It seems the libraries which you are or have worked for are forward thinking and truly understand the users’ needs in the new technology era! I am hoping for the same outcome at my current library. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  6. Profile photo of Molly

    @calsop, may I ask if your library built the app themselves, or are going through Demco’s Boopsie or something similar? I’m glad to hear it has been enriching your library experience, and that you have a positive outlook on mobile devices knowing that they aren’t going away.
    We need to be mobile with our library services, too. My library is moving forward with getting Polaris LEAP which will allow us to bring our ILS out and about – check books out, register cards, etc. It’s really exciting, especially for a district library serving a couple of towns! I hope other ILS companies encourage this mobility, we need to be meeting people where they are, just as your library does with their awesome app!

    • Profile photo of Carolyne Alsop

      @mjostock I agree! Library’s do need to meet people where they are! The App our customers are using is not one the library built, I’m not sure which App our customers are using. My husband uses an App called “Wallet”. I wish your library success with the implementation of Polaris LEAP, let us know how it goes 🙂

  7. Profile photo of Linda Monroe

    I enjoyed reading your post ! I especially liked the concept of patrons downloading their library cards onto their mobile devices and presenting mobile phone to us instead of their physical library card when checking out resources. Just that concept is totally mind blowing in comparison to where we were 5 to 10 years ago. One thing is for sure, technology is moving faster than what we realize.

    • Profile photo of Carolyne Alsop

      @izzie Thank you! It is mind blowing to think that we can store so much information in our devices! Having your library card stored onto your device is very convenient for our users’ and I hope our library recognizes this. We have got to keep up with our users’s desires/needs.

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