Back to the Community

Ich habe den Eindruck, dass in den Medienberichten zum digitalen Medienwandel die öffentlichen Bibliotheken ein wenig untergehen. Auch sie sind stark von den Veränderungen betroffen und müssen sich umstellen – und sie haben dafür nur ein geringes Budget. Es ist nahezu unmöglich, laufend mit neuen Dienstleistungsangeboten aufzuwarten. Insbesondere stehen sie vor der Frage, wie sie mit wenig Aufwand mobile Geräte bzw. Apps in ihre Angebote einbinden – denn das müssen sie, um ihre Zielgruppen weiterhin zu erreichen. Ich habe dazu Joe Murphy befragt. Er war bis 2011 Bibliothekar an der Universität Yale, seither arbeitet er als Trendanalyst und bloggt über die Zukunft der Bibliotheken.

Joe, where do you generally see the relationship between mobile technology and libraries in future – do you think people will use mobile devices in libraries to benefit from a better service (find easier a book, for example), will they use it to communicate with the library, or will they use it instead of the traditional library?

Joe Murphy: The relationship between mobile tech and libraries in the near future will be one of facilitation leveraging mobile tech as the portal providing access to mobile digital content. It will feature indirect facilitation by providing internet access for patrons to access content and services via their mobile devices. Libraries will allow library users to bring their own devices into libraries for more flexible service, to engage the library itself better, and as an info seeking device in the library but not necessarily as part of the library. A relationship that brings the library back into the community by leveraging mobile technology to serve as the new library book shelves as in Augmented Reality etc for location and situation sensitive information discovery.

Mobile tech is also the library’s chance to play on the same field as our tech savvy users. Mobile tech is the great equalizer because of its near universality and low barriers to entry. One approach to this will be library staff bringing their own mobile devices to work with as much mobility as patrons enjoy. In that vein, librarians will use more mobile technology to provide traditional services: iPads for reference, mobile payments to supplement the check out desk etc. The relationship will also focus on education around appropriate and efficient use of mobile technologies.

What role does education play in this context? Especially public libraries do not only offer media, but also education services, such as workshops, or reading to children. Should libraries use mobile devices for educational purposes?

Joe Murphy: Mobile technology can play a part in existing education initiatives. It can also be the focus of educational programs: teaching about the effective and ethical use of mobile tools. Libraries especially have a role in educating on how to efficiently engage information in a mobile world while respecting intellectual property. Librarians themselves need to be mobile literate and to pass along these skills to those we serve.

There are a lot of possibilites in mobile usage, from QR Codes to location aware tools, RFID, augmented reality – which of these make sense for libraries? Isn’t the implementation of most of these technologies too expensive or too laboriuos?

Joe Murphy: Even more interesting than particular technologies is shifting policy to allow and enable mobile users and mobile staff.

Each of those technologies (QR Codes, AR, location aware tools, RFID, etc) has proven to be interesting and beneficial for libraries. As has Near Field Communication (NFC). QR Codes have the lowest barriers to entry and the widest possible audience because it is based on using the ubiquitous smartphone camera on translating physical info into digital data.

The implementation of all technologies is costly, but if done strategically and efficiently that cost can be lower than the risk of not engaging. There is no such thing as a free tech because there are always hidden costs. For new tech projects, library staff need the skills and the personal experience with the tools. QR Codes have little monetary cost but high labor time which any staff level can accomplish.

The exploration and implementation of tech initiatives might be included in the work duties of many modern librarians. New tech initiatives are work intensive, so it may become necessary to give up something else. The above examples are not too overly intensive; they do not for instance require hard programming. When allocating resources consider future roles and not just core strengths and strategically decide what to cut.

A very important trend is the use of social recommendation engines. Can you imagine that something similar might work in a library context as well?

Joe Murphy: Absolutely. There is a strong need amongst libraries for awareness of the role of social recommendations and social search optimization related to peer discovery. Spotify itself would work in a library setting through shared playlists for studying connected via Facebook and by encouraging patrons to listening in the library with headphones.

Also relevant are social content tools similar to Spotify such as,, and Goodreads. Wider social recommendation resources like Yelp (including for locations like the library via Apple maps), Foursquare definitely, and even for iOS mobile app discovery with Facebook connections.

Which other mobile trends do you currently see, that could be interesting for libraries?

Joe Murphy: Size changes in our devices from the iPad Mini to Phablets (mobile devices larger than smart phone but smaller than tablets) that maximize content consumption and portability/human centered design. Images as a nexus for conversations and connections including Instagram to bring the community into the visual narrative of the library and area. Second screens, using the ubiquitous mobile device screen to engage the content being consumed on a separate screen such as a TV or eBook. Wearable technology from Google Glass to smart watches that bring the engagement with our smart mobile devices from the finger tips in our palm to something like a “heads up” glasses display or our wrist which allows us to safely engage the real world and the digital world simultaneously. Mobile payments and the related options. Ambient location tools that suggest relevant data based on your proximity to info heavy objects.

Then there are enterprise applications of mobile cloud tools such as Evernote, mobile digital content with Flipboard, Facebook for more including messaging, Snapchat and Poke for impermanent messaging, Vine, Kickstarter, 3D Printing, 3D scanning, and even tools like the 3Doodler Three D printing pen.

Change is constant nowadays in the world of technology. Mobile technology is here to stay and the best things that librarians can do to help their libraries succeed in a mobile world is gain experience with the technology and strive to stay current on it. There is a universal need to understand these technology shifts, and I give talks around the world aimed at helping librarians understand the changes in technology and how they impact libraries.

Share this post