Mobile Technology in the Library

I found the module on Mobile Devices & Connections to be particularly interesting because I have been thinking a lot about how mobile technology can be implemented in an academic library setting for my planning assignment. What really stands out to me as the key for mobile technology is a phrase that Michael Stephens applies to the hyperlinked library more generally, “Serving the user when and where they are” (2015). This fundamental premise speaks to not only the growing pervasiveness of smartphones, but also the need to constantly be on the lookout for the most effective way to engage users.

In her article for the Pew Research Center (2019), Laura Silver notes the rapid increase in smartphone ownership around the world. Importantly, however, this increase is not taking place at the same rate around the world. Being from the United States and having the privilege of owning a smartphone since my third year of college makes it easy to forget what it was like to not own a smartphone, and also realize the fact that roughly 20% of Americans do not own a smartphone according to the Pew survey. It is important for libraries and schools to understand the communities that they serve so they can approach them accordingly. The Deloitte article on “How do today’s students use mobiles?” (2016) sheds some light on this issue by examining expectations and usage patterns among different age groups, focusing on comparing habits of those aged 18-24 to older adults 25+. This study indicates that the target age group expects to be able to use their mobile devices regularly to manage most aspects of their lives. With this in mind, it is important that academic libraries take this into account when seeking to develop new services.

Academic libraries must embrace new technologies while also being able/willing to recognize when something is not working. David Weinberger discusses the fact that the role of library is changing in his article “Let the Future Go” (2014). Rather than determining their own future, Weinberger argues that libraries should work on contributing to the services that are part of the library mission even if they are not directly library related. Because libraries already contain a vast amount of information, and have undergone many years of development and organizational refinement, they are in a position to help improve systems and technologies that are already being widely used. This idea that libraries must enable others to determine their role in the future is connected to the importance of remaining relevant technologically. One example of a mobile technology that has been falling out of favor is the QR code. Sean Cummings (2011) and B.L. Ochman (2013) offer distinct perspectives on QR codes that can be helpful when thinking about how libraries can implement new technologies going forward. The former points out ways that QR codes have been used that failed, but offers alternatives that encourage creativity and could lead to potential future success. Ochman, however, sees the failure of QR codes and their implementation as an example for the adoption of new technologies in the future.

As quickly as new mobile technologies are developed, it makes sense to leave old ones behind. Recognizing when something can be improved on or is no longer working, when something new can be implemented in an engaging way, and learning from mistakes in the past will all lead to better practices for working with emerging technologies in the future, and help us “serv[e] the user when and where they are.”

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