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/

Diversity in Action: Public Libraries Creating Spaces for Everyone

I tried on a few different hats in choosing my own adventure for the Hyperlinked Environments module and finally landed on The Hyperlinked Public Library. As I read through the articles and watched the videos, I found that many of them had a similar thread running through them: the library needs to be what its community needs and wants. This sentiment, however, is not one that is present in just public libraries, but public libraries do serve a great variety of demographics. They must cater to the needs of young and old, wealthy and poor, high school, college, and elementary school education levels, as well as a myriad of interests and skill levels in these interests. As Marie Østergård so succinctly worded it, “Libraries need to be different all over the world and all over the cities” (Public Libraries 2030).

I was inspired by the many different activities and needs the different libraries worked toward for their community. The Westmount Public Library in Quebec, Canada, has created stores and digital archives from 40,000 postcards donated to them by their community (Baicco, 2016). This shows a need rooted deeply in history and understanding the background of the place’s identity. The innovation of spaces like this around the world drove me to look into different and unique library programs in other cities.

As one of my own personal interests lies in video gaming, I was impressed by Cleveland Public Library’s eSports initiative. It brings gaming, which is oftentimes thought of as an isolated hobby, into the community space by providing gamers with a way to meet each other and play together. Not only does the program allow users to meet one another and build community ties, but it also teachers them new skills like the strategy and collaboration skills through gaming itself, streaming software, how to work with gaming hardware (laptops, desktops, and consoles), and digital literacy. In addition to the skills users learn from gaming, this program also helps to bridge the digital divide, providing a space for users who may not have access to expensive gaming computers, consoles, and games, to enjoy the online world of gaming and competition.

In a strange and unexpected, although totally in alignment with library values, program the Newcastle libraries created a Crypto Party for their users. You might be thinking: how is crypto related to library values? The program itself intends on teaching safe browsing, Tor, and encryption (Clark, 2016; Haydock, 2016). As advocates for the free flow of information, digital literacy, and confidentiality, user privacy is extremely important to library values, and the seventh right in the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights (American Library Association, 2019). This program teaches new technology, a new trend, financing, and protecting one’s privacy in an age where private companies often monetize personal data.

These types of programs show the library’s advocacy for all users, even those with hobbies that are socially stigmatized. It shows a want to bring digital literacy to the forefront, that these public libraries are listening to their communities and attempting to bridge the digital divide and bring equality to their spaces. It is thinking outside just book clubs and children’s story times in an attempt to reach people who may otherwise not use library facilities. While traditional programs are very useful and continue to bring joy and engagement to particular groups, programs like these public libraries are creating inspire me to create and brainstorm ways I might reach those on the margins of the community together in the library.

References

American Library Association. (2019). Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill

Baicco, L. (2016). Labor of love: Opening up archival gems for community engagement. Computers in Libraries, 36(4). Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/default.shtml

Clark, I. (2016, October 05). Crypto party…in a public library…in the UK. Infoism. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://infoism.co.uk/2016/05/crypto-party/

ClevelandPublicLibrary. (2017, June 13). eSports and Celveland Public Library. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3OABsQA2yw

Haydock, A. (2016, May 30). What we learned from hosting our cryptoparty. Medium.com. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@alexhaydock/what-we-learned-from-hosting-our-cryptoparty-3950c9721f3e

Public Libraries 2030. (205, April 27). PL2020 Tour – Denmark – A knowledge hub for the community. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvFfbjs8aZo