Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Going mobile - are libraries/galleries/museum systems ready to party?

Cultural systems go mobile
If the cultural sector, especially libraries, museums, galleries, etc, have an ambition to lead the way onto a vibrant digital cultural space, then presumably their current catalogue systems should be readable and accessible on mobile phones, and other mobile devices?

And if, as I believe there is, a powerful argument to say that libraries are the leaders in terms of digital platforms, then presumably, they will also be leading the way in terms of robust mobile offers?

Roy Tennant - Current Cities
Possibly - but definitely not a done deal, if the following research report is accurate. The commentary quoted below comes from the ever excellent, Roy Tennant's, Current Cities.

Note: for the non library world - an OPAC is library speak for 'Online Public Access Catalog.

"Liston, Samuel. "[18 ] OPACs and the Mobile Revolution" [19]
Computers in Libraries 29(5)(May 2009): 6-17.

"Have you ever tried to use your library's website and OPAC from a smartphone (such as the iPhone or a BlackBerry)?

Many of us probably think that the number of patrons who try to use the library from a smartphone is relatively small, and thus not worth worrying about.

While the author notes that smartphone adoption within the general public ranges from 5-10%, use of these types of devices by college freshman is already up to 66%.

That's a number that should make you wonder what they're seeing when they try to find a book from their BlackBerry.

In this article, Liston uses online emulators that simulate the experience of surfing the web from an iPhone, a BlackBerry, and a phone running the Windows Mobile operating system. Using these tools, he conducts a search for a book in a SirsiDynix catalog, one from Innovative Interfaces, and finally an AquaBrowser catalog.

Results for Windows Mobile and the BlackBerry's OS were mixed; they ran into a variety of problems, but in most cases managed to display the information in some way. It is probably not surprising to hear that the iPhone's browser handled all of the catalogs quite well.

Overall, Liston finds that Innovative does the best job of displaying on a mobile device, while AquaBrowser does the worst -- it won't even load on the BlackBerry.

Along the way, he points out a variety of pitfalls and display problems; these include the BlackBerry's inability to use JavaScript, and problems with Flash on the iPhone.

While there may not be much that an individual library can do to make their catalog more accessible for mobile users, we can lobby our vendors to do so, and at least make our websites usable.

That way, when someone can't find a book from their BlackBerry, they can at least find the number for the reference desk. -"

[20]AC" Current Cites - ISSN: 1060-2356 is hosted by the community at [c] Copyright 2009 by Roy Tennant

Some NZ context
SirsiDynix is the LMS [Library Managment System] vendor for both Christchurch Public Library, and New Plymouth [Puke Ariki] AquaBrowser is being used by Auckland City Libraries and is under investigation by a number of metropolitan libraries.

AquaBrowser: Faceted Search, or Visual Boolean
Librarian love AquaBrowser because they reckon it gives them a tool to go after the new black of libraries ' faceted search'.

I think it is more like visual Boolean - which is why librarians love it. In my experience, most users just 'don't get it' - i.e. it reminds me of the old Bernard Shaw quote on New Zealand - ' in a country of such natural splendour, why oh why are they so proud of Rotorua?'

The facet search on AquaBrowser
But that's a personal opinion - others might like it - want to see it in action - go to ACL web site - enter a search terms - and then when the results page comes back - have a look at the floating keyword terms on the left hand side of the page - and the category search options on the right hand side - click on the image below to start this.

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