Monday, May 23, 2011

Going mobile (Library technology thoughts, pt. 3 of 8)

(I have a list of six predictions about what I expect to see happen in academic library technology over the next 5-10 years. This is prediction #2.)

Mobile devices will increase in importance for use of library collections and services.

Libraries know it.

Publishers know it.

Vendors know it.

(And, of course, Google knows it...)

I know that some of the mobile-designed tools, like QR codes, are faulted for introducing a new digital divide between people with smartphones and people with ordinary dumb mobile phones (like me). I think it's good that someone has been working on a smartphone workaround for QR codes. I think it would be even better if the library world in particular stopped conflating "mobile" and "cutting-edge," instead prioritizing tools that work on the least-reasonable-common-denominator devices. (Didn't we go through this with web browser neutrality in HTML code?) Cell phones in general are ubiquitous. iPods are a little less ubiquitous but still widespread. I know people who get along quite well without combining the functionality of the two.

And here is where the predicting-the-future part comes in: I know very little about how this technology really works--something at the top of my list of things to fix in June--and even I can see that all the necessary technological pieces are already in place on the user end. The only question is whether libraries will make working with those pieces a high priority when dealing with vendors or designing our own tools. I'm betting the answer is yes--user satisfaction is simply too dominating a performance measure for us to safely leave mobile content, tools and services on the back burner.

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