Mobile technology: A boon for the future of libraries, but creating a tech gap

As I was reading Deloitte (2016), I found myself nodding along with the findings. Yes, I do wake up and check my notifications on my phone. Yes, I do check my phone even if I don’t have any notifications. Yes, I do use my phone to help manage my life (Google Calendar and Google accounts in general, you are a lifesaver!). I use mobile tech and social media to get my news (mostly via Reddit and sometimes Twitter) because I can subscribe based on interests and read the articles that are posted, no matter what news source they come from. With this major mobile information age, people are able to subscribe to the types of news they want to see (more science? animals? hobby news?) without having to join a club, listserv, or subscribe to magazines. This service offered through social media could be offered through the library, as well, as Enis (2014) wrote about with regards to the BluuBeam, which allows users to learn about library programming through their phone. Imagine a library app that allowed users to subscribe to certain interests, sort of like Reddit, but library related. Think subjects like: tech classes, children’s events, new [insert genre] books, game nights, that a patron could subscribe to and receive notifications for on their phone. Perhaps library’s post about this on their social media, but the app would encourage user-specific interests and content. What if this app also included local museums? Local community centers? The possibilities are incredible for mobile technology and harnessing that for libraries will be key in getting some of the more tech savvy patrons into the library.

But what about the non-tech savvy people?

As Pew Research Center (2019) found there is a great disparity in smartphone ownership between younger age groups (18-34) and older adults (50+) meaning we will need to find a way to reach those who do not use smartphones. If there is something everyone loves, though, it’s convenience. Perhaps a way to bridge the gap in mobile tech users and non-users is to offer easy-to-use services for everyone. The Moose Jaw Public Library offers a “text a librarian” service (Shaw TV South Saskatchewan, 2013) where you can text a question anonymously to a librarian and get a response. This service does not necessarily need someone to use a smart phone, but could introduce less tech-savvy people to the idea of using mobile technology for library services.

In addition to bridging the gap via inclusive, super-convenient services, helping less-tech savvy people learn could be another way to reach all patrons. The Memphis Public Libraries offer a “Mobile Technology Learning Van” that brings mobile technology to different areas of the county. Not only does this help bridge the digital divide, but it reaches people who may not have transportation to the library, and gets people interested in learning about mobile technology, which in turn, helps prepare people for the future of mobile devices.

There are so many possibilities for mobile tech in the future (and right now!). If anything, it will only become more and more popular as the generations move forward, but, as librarians, we will need to find ways to bridge the gap and still reach those who do not have access to mobile tech or who have not yet embraced it. Librarians will need to plan on both fronts: helping the library shift into the mobile direction of the future and work to get all patrons on board and help everyone within a community.

References

Deloitte. (2016). How do today’s students use mobiles? Deloitte. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/public-sector/articles/how-do-todays-students-use-mobiles.html#

Enis, M. (2014, November 18). “Beacon” technology deployed by two library app makers. Library Journal. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=beacon-technology-deployed-by-two-library-app-makers

Local 24 Memphis. (2018, December 13). Mobile technology learning van helps to bride the connections for the non-tech savvy in Memphis. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHGlxCT9iIQ

Shaw TV South Saskatchewan. (2013, May 10). Text a Librarian. [Video file] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGlB34HMIOU

Silver, L. (2019). Smartphone ownership is growing rapidly around the world, but not always equally. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/02/05/smartphone-ownership-is-growing-rapidly-around-the-world-but-not-always-equally/

1 comment
  1. @britstrike I like this idea: “Mobile Technology Learning Van” – I watched the video to fond out more about where they were going. Pleased to hear neighborhoods and festivals! I would be interested to see how this outreach is going. Thanks for sharing.

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