Here are some intersting highlights from the important post Digital Media in Community Libraries, Part 1: Mobile Media from the Futures of Learning project funded by the MacArthur Foundation:
“…According to a report by comScore, as of January 2009 some 22.4 million mobile phone users were accessing the mobile web on a daily basis, and this usage had doubled since one year prior (Burns, 2009)…
Mobile technologies clearly allow libraries to expand the range of forms for distributing content…many libraries have begun offering e-books and digital audio books for download. For example, since 2005 cardholders of the New York Public Library have been able to download audio books from the Internet any time of the day or night simply by going to the library’s website and entering their card number and a PIN (http://www.gizmag.com/go/4157/)… The New York Public Library and thousands of others use OverDrive’s technology, and OverDrive’s website allows users to search for libraries offering free digital downloads (http://www.overdrive.com/). Libraries have also begun offering not only digital content, but also the means by which to use it. As Ellyssa Kroski (2008) discusses in her recent report, On the Move with the Mobile Web, institutions such as the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs, Illinois (http://www.fordlibrary.org/) allow patrons to check out iPod Nanos with audio books loaded on them.
…QR codes could have multiple uses in libraries. As librarian Lex Rigby explains, currently in libraries while conventional barcodes are used to link an item to its catalog record, the information is limited and it can only be accessed by scanning the barcode at the check-out desk. On the other hand, QR codes could be used to store descriptions, images, useful links, etc. for all types of library materials. A library patron could use their mobile phone to scan the QR code to access this information (http://www.lexrigby.com/2009/03/26/qr-codes-in-libraries-and-higher-education/). The library at the University of Bath is at the forefront of using QR codes to link to their catalog (http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/qrcode/2009/03/23/uni-of-bath-library-including-qr-codes-in-catalogue/). This expanded range of information available at the click of a (camera phone) button is obviously time-saving and efficient. Thus far, however, the use of QR codes in public libraries in the U.S. does not seem to be widespread although such two dimensional barcodes have been generated for the web spaces of each branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (http://natehill.wordpress.com/2008/07/27/the-physical-internet-10-at-not-your-library/).
…text messaging (or SMS – short message service) is an obvious means of inexpensive and efficient communication, and several public libraries have implemented message options for their cardholders. Orlando, Florida’s Orange County Library System (http://www.ocls.info) allows patrons the choice of receiving text message reminders about upcoming due dates for materials and start dates for courses (Kroski, 2008). The Skokie Public Library in Skokie, Illinois offers such alerts as well as updates on holds placed and the option of renewing items via SMS (http://www.skokie.lib.il.us/s_about/mobile_services.asp). For similar purposes, some libraries are also using Twitter (http://twitter.com/about#about), a micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates (tweets) to their ‘followers’ and receive tweets from those they signed up to follow. Posts can be viewed on a computer or an Internet-enabled mobile phone.
In addition to using mobile-enabled messaging, many libraries are designing their websites to be mobile friendly, which involves making the information concise, limiting the number of links, using descriptive icons, and including ‘home’ and ‘parent-link’ icons (West, Hafner, & Faust, 2006). At the current moment, however, there are still issues with display quality across different devices (Liston, 2009). Again, among community libraries the Skokie Public Library emerges as an exemplar as the library has designed a version of its website specifically for viewing on the small screen of a mobile device. The library catalog can also be browsed using a phone or PDA (with AirPAC, a mobile version of OPAC). In a recent presentation, Megan Fox (2009) has outlined numerous types of library friendly applications designed for the iPhone and other smartphones. Such applications enable users to find public libraries, organize notes, and conduct mobile searches. For example, the Washington D.C. Public Library has an iPhone application specifically designed to navigate its services. Some libraries also provide audio tours via mobile phones (http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=2383). A final mobile service deserving mention is the WorldCat Mobile pilot project (http://www.worldcat.org/mobile/default.jsp), which enables users to search for library materials as well as libraries, maps, and directions…
…As library professionals participate in Google groups (http://groups.google.com/group/mobilelibraries), blogs (Gerry McKiernan’s http://mobile-libraries.blogspot.com/), and conferences (http://m-libraries2009.ubc.ca/) dedicated to exploring mobile libraries, the future promises to bring more ways that mobile phones and PDAs can be used to serve the library’s mission in terms of expanding content, services, and outreach…”