Mobile Technologies & Academics:
Do Students Use Mobile
Technologies in Their Academic
Lives and are Librarians Ready to
Meet this Challenge?
and Flora Shrode
MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES & ACADEMICS | DRESSELHAUS AND SHRODE 82
In this paper we report on two surveys and offer an introductory plan that librarians may use to
begin implementing mobile access to selected library databases and services. Results from the
first survey helped us to gain insight into where students at Utah State University (USU) in
Logan, Utah, stand regarding their use of mobile devices for academic activities in general and
their desire for access to library services and resources in particular. A second survey,
conducted with librarians, gave us an idea of the extent to which responding libraries offer
mobile access, their future plans for mobile implementation, and their opinions about whether
and how mobile technologies may be useful to library patrons. In the last segment of the paper,
we outline steps librarians can take as they “go mobile.”
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
Similar to colleagues in all types of libraries around the world, librarians at Utah State
University (USU) want to take advantage of opportunities to provide information resources
and library services via mobile devices. Observing growing popularity of mobile, Internet-
capable telephones and computing devices, USU librarians assume that at least some users
would welcome the ability to use such devices to connect to library resources. To find out
mobile services or vendors’ applications USU students would be likely to use, we
conducted a needs assessment. The lessons learned will provide important guidance to
management decisions about how librarians and staff members devote time and effort
toward implementing and developing mobile access.
We conducted a survey of USU’s students (approximately 25,000 undergraduates and
graduates) to determine the degree of handheld device usage in the student population, the
purposes for which students use such devices, and students’ interests in mobile access to the
library. In addition, we surveyed librarians to learn about libraries’ current and future plans
to launch mobile services. This survey was administered to an opportunistic population
Angela Dresselhaus (email@example.com) was Electronic Resources Librarian,
Flora Shrode (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Head, Reference & Instruction Services, Utah State
University, Logan, Utah.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND LIBRARIES | JUNE 2012 83
comprised of subscribers to seven e-mail lists whom we invited to offer feedback. Our goal
was to develop an action plan that would be responsive to students’ interests. At the same
time, we aim to take advantage of the growing awareness of and demand for mobile access
and to balance workloads among the library information technology professionals who
would implement these services.
USU is Utah’s land-grant university and the Merrill-Cazier Library is its primary library
facility on the home campus in Logan, Utah. While USU has had satellite branches for some
time, a growing emphasis on expanding online and distance education courses and degree
programs has resulted in a considerable growth of its distance education programs in the last
five years. Mobile access to university resources makes especially good sense for the distance
education population and for students who may reside close to the main USU campus but
who also enroll in online courses. The library has an information technology staff of 4.5 FTE
professionals who support the library catalog, maintain roughly 250 computer workstations
in cooperation with the director of campus student computer labs, and oversee the
computing needs of library staff and faculty members.
Mobile access to library resources is not a new concept; in fact, the first project designed to
deliver handheld mobile access to library patrons began eighteen years ago, in 1993, the time
of mainframe computers and Gopher. The “Library Without A Roof” project partners
included the University of Southern Alabama, AT&T, BellSouth Cellular, and Notable
Library patrons at participating institutions could search and read
electronic texts on their personal digital assistants (PDAs) and search the library catalog
while browsing in physical collections.
As reflected in the literature, interest in PDA applications for libraries started to pick up
around the turn of the twenty-first
century. Medical librarians were among the first to widely
recognize the potential impact of mobile technologies on librarianship. A 2002 article in the
Journal of the Medical Library Association and a monograph by Colleen Cuddy are among the
first publications that focus on PDAs.
A quick perusal of the medical category on the iTunes
store reveals several professional applications, ranging from New England Journal of Medicine
tools to remote patient vital-sign monitors. As an example of the depth of mobile-device
penetration in the medical field, in 2010 the Food and Drug Administration approved the
marketing of the AirStrip suite of mobile-device applications. These apps work in conjunction
with vital-sign monitoring equipment to allow instant remote access to a patient’s vital
These examples illust
increasing pervasiveness of mobile technology in
Mobile learning in academic areas outside of medicine has increased recently as more
universities have adopted mobile technologies.
A sampling of current projects at academic
MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES & ACADEMICS | DRESSELHAUS AND SHRODE 84
institutions is provided in the 2010 Horizon Report.
According to the 2010 Educause Center
for Applied Research (ECAR) study, 49 percent of undergraduates consider themselves
mainstream adopters of technology.
Locally, Utah State University students have adopted
smartphones at the rate of 39.3 percent and other handheld Internet devices at the rate of
31.5 percent. These statistics indicate that skills are increasing and the technological
landscape is changing quickly. The ECAR study reports that student computing is rapidly
moving to the cloud, another indication of the rapid change in the use of technology. “USB
may one day go the way of the eight-track tape as laptops, netbooks, smartphones and other
portable devices enable students to access their content from anywhere. They may or may
not be aware of it, but many of today’s undergraduates are already cloud-savvy information
consumers, and higher education is slowly but surely following their lead.”
students show interest in adopting new technology. While USU students are less likely to
own mobile devices, 70.2 percent of respondents indicated that they would be likely or very
likely to use library resources on smartphones if they owned capable devices and if the
library provided easy access to materials.
Bridges, Gascho Rempel, and Griggs published a comprehensive article, “Making the case for a
fully mobile library web site: from floor maps to the catalog,” detailing their efforts to
implement mobile services on the Oregon State University campus.
Their paper highlights
the popularity of mobile phones and smartphones/web-enabled phones. The authors discuss
mobile phone use, library mobile websites, and mobile catalogs, and they describe the
process they used to develop their mobile library site. They note that mobile services will
certainly be expected in the coming years, and we have learned that USU students share this
In recent years librarians have conducted surveys on mobile technology in libraries. In a
2007 study, Cummings, Merrill, and Borrelli surveyed library patrons to find out if they are
likely to access the library catalog via small-screen devices.
They discovered that 45.2
percent of respondents, regardless of whether they owned a device, would access the library
catalog on a small-screen device. Mobile access to the library catalog was the most requested
service in the USU student survey, although it accounted for only 16percent of the responses.
Cummings, et al. also discovered that the most frequent users of the catalog were also the
least willing to access the catalog via mobile devices, an interesting observation that merits
further research. Their survey was completed in June of 2007, just five months after the
release of the original iPhone. The release of the iPhone is significant as the point
where the market demographics of mobile device users began to shift to people under thirty,
the primary age group of undergraduate students.
Librarians Wilson and McCarthy at Ryerson University conducted two surveys
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND LIBRARIES | JUNE 2012 85
the usage of their catalog’s feature to send a call number via text or email (initiated in
and their “fledgling mobile web site” (launched in 2008).
The first survey indicated that
percent of respondents owned Internet-capable cell phones, and over half said they intended
to buy this type of phone when their current contracts expired. The survey respondents
indicated they wanted the following services: “booking group study rooms, checking hours
and schedules, checking their borrower records and checking the catalogue.”
survey was conducted a year after the library had implemented a group study room
reservation system, catalog and borrower record services, and a computer/laptop availability
service. Results of the follow-up survey show a drastic increase in ownership of Internet-
capable cell phones (from 20% to 65%). Respondents desired two new services: article
searches and e-book access. Wilson and McCarthy found that very few library patrons were
accessing the mobile services, but “60% of the survey respondents were unaware that the
library provided mobile services.”
The authors conclude that advertising should be a
central part of mobile technology implementation. They also detail how the library
contributed expertise and leadership to their campus-wide mobile initiatives.
Seeholzer and Salem conducted a series of focus groups in the spring of 2009 to determine
the extent of mobile device use among students at Kent State University.
their findings are that students are willing to conduct research with mobile devices, and they
desire to have a feature-rich interactive experience via handheld devices. Students expressed
interest in customizing interactions with the library’s mobile site and completing common
tasks such as placing holds or renewing library materials.
NATIONWIDE SURVEY OF LIBRARIANS
We asked colleagues who subscribe to e-mail distribution lists to respond to a survey about
their libraries’ implementation of mobile applications for access to library collections and
services. Invitations to take the survey were sent to seven lists (ACRL Science & Technology
Section, ERIL, Information Literacy Instruction, Liblicense-L, NASIG, Ref-L, and Serialist), and
289 librarians and library staff members responded to the survey. The population of
subscribers to the e-mail lists we used to solicit survey responses is dynamic and includes
librarians and staff who work in academic and other types of settings. While our findings
cannot be generalized in a statistically reliable manner, we nonetheless believe that the
We chose to conduct two surveys to avoid some of the problems we noted in a 2007 study
conducted by Todd Spires.
Spires’ survey questions focused on librarians’ perceptions
rather than on empirical data. We developed separate surveys for librarians and students in
hopes of avoiding problems that could arise from basing assumptions on perceived behavior
or from the complexity of interpreting and generalizing from perceptions. A survey of library
patrons should provide more accurate insight into the ways that patrons are using the lib
MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES & ACADEMICS | DRESSELHAUS AND SHRODE 86
via handheld devices.
In the libraries that currently provide mobile access to resources, the library catalog is most
commonly offered. Article databases and assistance from a librarian tie as the second most
frequently provided services. Figure 1 shows a snapshot of the resources and services
librarians reported that they provide. We also asked how long libraries have provided
mobile access, and the time periods ranged from a few weeks to more than ten years. Five
librarians indicated that they have provided mobile access for six to ten years, and it is
possible that these respondents may work in medical or health science libraries, as our
literature review indicated that access to medical information and journal articles via PDAs
has been a reality for several years.
Figure 1. Librarians’ Responses: Does Your Library Provide Mobile Access to the
Following Library Resources?
Librarians were also asked what services and resources they believe libraries should provide
via mobile devices. Of one hundred seventy-eight responses, 71 percent indicated that
“everything” or a variety of library resources should be made available. A few of the more
interesting suggestions include a library café webcam (similar to a popular link from North
Carolina State University), locker reservations, a virtual suggestion box, alerts about database
trials, an app that lists new books, and using iPads or other mobile devices for roving
reference. Roving reference with tablet PCs was evaluated by Smith and Pietraszewski at the
west campus branch library of Texas A&M.
As tablet computers become increasingly
popular with the release of the iPad and other tablets,
roving reference should be
reconsidered. Smith and Pietraszewski note that "the tablet PC proved to be an extremely
useful device as well as a novelty that drew student interest (anything to make reference
librarians look cool!)"
Using the latest technology in libraries will help raise awareness that
libraries are relevant and adapting to changing user preferences.
We asked librarians to indicate who had responsibility for implementing mobile access in
their library. The 184 responses are summarized here:
63 percent answered that a library systems or computing professional does
26.1 percent indicated that the electronic resources librarian has this role;
17.9 percent rely on an information professional from outside of the library;
22.8 percent chose “other,” and we unfortunately did not offer a space for
comments where survey respondents could tell us the job title of the person in
their library who implements mobile access.
The results from our sample of librarians are consistent with a larger study by the Library
The LJ study found that the majority of academic libraries have implemented or are
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND LIBRARIES | JUNE 2012 87
planning to implement mobile technologies.
In January of 2011 we sent out a thirteen-question survey to students (questions are
available in appendix A). USU’s student headcount is 25,767, and 3,074 students responded,
representing 11.9 percent of the student population. We asked students to identify with
colleges so that we could evaluate the survey sample against the enrollment at USU. The rate
of response by college clustered between 12–19 percent with the lowest response rate
(8 percent) from the College of Education. The highest response rate came from the College
of Humanities and Social Sciences.
We examined survey response rates from USU undergraduate and graduate populations; 54
percent of undergraduates and 50 percent of graduate students use mobile technology for
academic purposes. We believe that our sample is sufficiently representative of the overall
population of USU.
Figure 2. Student Response Rates by College
In order to understand the context of survey questions that specifically address mobile
access, we asked students how often they used library electronic resources. The majority of
students used electronic books, the library catalog, and electronic journals/articles a few
times each semester. Only 34.4 percent of students never use electronic books, 19.6 percent
never use the library catalog, and 17.6 percent never use electronic journals/articles. We
made comparisons between disciplines and found no significant difference in electronic
resource use between fields in the sciences and those in humanities. Further data will be
collected in fall 2011 about use of print and electronic materials.
MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES & ACADEMICS | DRESSELHAUS AND SHRODE 88
Figure 3. Electronic Resource Use Among Students
Students were asked how often they use a variety of handheld devices. We decided to
emphasize access over ownership in order to allow for a variety of situations. Responses
show that 39.3 percent of our students use a smartphone with Internet access on a daily
basis. Another 31.5 percent of students use other handheld devices like an iPod touch on a
daily basis. Very few students use iPads or e-book readers, with 3.9 percent and 5.4 percent
indicating daily use, respectively. We view the "Other handheld device" category as an
important segment of the mobile technology market because of the lower cost barrier, since
such devices do not require a
subscription to a data plan. The ECAR study also noted the
possibility of cost factors influencing
the decision of some students not to access the Internet
via a handheld device.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND LIBRARIES | JUNE 2012 89
Figure 4. Mobile Device Usage
Students were asked if they use their mobile device or phone for academic purposes (e.g.,
Blackboard, electronic course reserves, etc.). This question was intentionally worded broadly
in order to gather general information. We used skip logic to direct respondents to different
paths through the survey based on their response to earlier questions. In response
question about how students use their mobile devices, 54 percent of respondents indicated
use their mobile devices for academic purposes. We analyzed the results by
discipline and noted a few variances. Among students responding from the School of
Business, 63 percent said that they use their mobile device for academic purposes, and 59
percent of engineering students use their devices for school work. The respondents from the
other colleges reported use under 50 percent,
most likely because of more limited adoption
of mobile technology by USU faculty in those
fields or lack of personal funds (or
unwillingness to spend) to acquire devices and data plans. The 2010 ECAR report also noted
higher exposure to technology in these fields, indicating that the situation at USU is in line
with results from a national study.
MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES & ACADEMICS | DRESSELHAUS AND SHRODE 90
Table 1. Device use for Academic Purposes by College
We asked the students, “If library resources were easily accessible on your mobile devices,
and if you had such a device, how likely would you be to use any of the following for
assignments or research?” Responses to this question allowed us to gauge interest without
concerns about cost of technology or the current state of mobile readiness in our library.
Among the survey respondents, 70.2 percent are likely or very likely to use resources on a
smartphone; 46.9 percent are likely or very likely to use resources on an iPad; 45.9 percent
are likely or very likely to use resources on an e-book reader; 63.2 percent are likely or very
likely to use resources on other devices. We included an option for respondents to select “not
applicable” as distinct from “not likely” to allow for those students who may welcome use of
a mobile device but who may currently use a device different from the types we specified.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND LIBRARIES | JUNE 2012 91
Figure 5. Likelihood of Using Library Resources on Mobile Device if Easily Available
We are unsure how to account for the dramatic difference in interest between smartphone
and iPad usage. Survey responses indicated that only a small number of students have access
to an iPad, and it is possible that students have had little opportunity to see their classmates
or others use iPads in an academic setting.
Students were asked in a free-text question to list the services the library should offer.
comments were varied and often used language different from the vocabulary that librarians
typically use. In order to gain an understanding of trends and to standardize the language,
we coded the survey comments. After coding, trends began to emerge. Access to the library
catalog was mentioned by 16 percent of respondents. Mobile services in general were
specified by 11 percent of survey respondents, 10 percent wanted articles, and 9 percent
wanted to reserve study rooms on their mobile device. The phrase “mobile services”
represents a catch-all tag designated for comments that indicated that a student desired a
variety of services or all
services that are possible. For example, only 9 percent of
respondents indicated they had used text to
contact the library and 15percent had used
instant messaging. Several students indicated they might have used these services but did
not know they were available, indicating a need for
advertising. While we learned much
MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES & ACADEMICS | DRESSELHAUS AND SHRODE 92
about students’ desires for mobile services from this
important subset of comments in
response to the free-text question, they did not prove especially useful to guide librarians’
plans for the next stages of implementing mobile technology.
Figure 6. Services Requested by Students
As is common at many institutions, funding at USU is limited and any development in the area
of mobile access implementation must be strategic. Our survey indicated that USU students
are using mobile devices for their academic work and would like to further integrate library
resources into their mobile routine. The next section of this paper outlines the steps we are
taking toward mobile implementation.
The USU Library joins many other academic libraries in the beginning stages of implementing
mobile technologies. Survey responses from students indicate that they use mobile devices
for academic purposes, and until options to use the library with such devices are available
and advertised, we will not have a clear understanding of students’ preferences.
Klatt's article, “Going Mobile: Free and Easy,”
outlines a way to get started with mobile
services with small investments of time and money. Articles by Griggs,
and books by Green, et al.
also provide guidance in this area. Here we offer
suggestions to establish an implementation team, conduct an environmental scan, outline
steps to begin the process, and shed light on advertising, assessment, and policy issues.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND LIBRARIES | JUNE 2012 93
For a library seeking to provide mobile access to online resources, a diverse and talented
implementation team is important. Public services personnel in an academic library staff are
on the front lines and often field students’ questions. They may also have the opportunity to
observe how students are using mobile devices in the library. If librarians track reference
interactions, they may find evidence that students are attempting to use their mobile devices
to access library services. The electronic resources/collections specialist will also play a key
role in mobile development. These specialists are often in contact with vendors, and their
advocacy is important in encouraging mobile web development in the vendor community. A
web site coordinator interested in mobile services and knowledgeable in current web
essential talent to the team. Arguably, a mobile-optimized web site
should become a standard level of service. Web sites that are optimized or adapted
specifically for mobile access are device agnostic and do not require advanced knowledge of
smart phone operating systems. Therefore existing web development staff can apply their
current skill set to expand into mobile web design. In order to launch advanced interactive
access to library resources, a programmer who is interested in developing mobile apps on a
number of platforms is needed. Device-specific applications allow for the use of phone
features such as GPS and orientation sensing via an accelerometer and provide the basis for
augmented reality technologies.
Librarians can learn about mobile usage in their community by gathering information to
guide future development. At USU we interpret the numbers of students who use mobile
devices for academic purposes as justification for implementing mobile library access, but we
have not set a benchmark for a degree of interest that would trigger more development.
Some of the mobile implementations described at the end of this paper required minimal
investigated because of the electronic resources librarian’s interest for their
relevance to her role as music subject librarian. In the survey we administered to students,
we considered it important to include a wide range of devices, including iPod touches and
similar devices that have many of the same possibilities for academic use as smartphones but
which do not
a monthly contract. Laptops are also considered a mobile technology,
and while we did not emphasize this class of devices, some student comments referred
specifically to laptop computers. We will monitor use of the mobile applications that we
implement and likely conduct a follow-up survey to assess students’ satisfaction and to find
out if there are other services they would like for the library to provide.
While librarians may gather useful information from a user study, there are other
determine if students are, in fact, using mobile devices in the library. One approach is to
review logs of reference questions to determine if students are inquiring about access to
library resources via mobile devices. Recently, a few mobile-related questions have surfaced
MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES & ACADEMICS | DRESSELHAUS AND SHRODE 94
at USU in the LibStats program used to track reference interactions. This is also an area
where training reference staff to recognize and record questions about mobile access could
be helpful to detect demand in the library’s community. If vendors provide statistics about
use of their products from mobile devices, this information could also contribute to assessing
need. Finally, in libraries that use VPN or other off-campus authentication methods,
consulting with IT support staff to see if they field questions on setting up remote access on
smartphones or other devices may factor into decisions regarding mobile access. The USU
Information Technology website provides a knowledgebase that includes entries on a variety
of mobile device queries. This indicates to librarians that people in the university community
are using their mobile devices for academic functions. Before we conducted the survey of
USU students, we knew little about the exact nature of their mobile use.
After identifying the needs on campus, the next step is to create a plan for mobile
implementation. An important aspect of anticipating the needs of a library’s user population
is to understand the likely use scenarios, goals, tasks, and context as outlined in
“Library/mobile: Tips on Designing and Developing Mobile Web Sites.”
Building on services
that incorporate tasks that people already perform in non-academic contexts provides a
logical bridge for those who are familiar with everyday use of a mobile device to recognize
how such devices can serve academic purposes.
Gathering information from each vendor that supplies content to the library is an important
early step in planning. This information can serve as the basis of a mobile web
implementation plan and, in the case of EBSCO, creating a profile is necessary in order to
allow access to a mobile-formatted platform. At USU our online catalog provider has
developed an application for Apple's iOS platform. If a library’s catalog vendor does not offer
a dedicated application or mobile site, Samuel Liston’s comparisons of three major online
catalogs on three popular mobile devices is helpful in gaining an understanding of how
OPACs display on
smartphones. His article also outlines a procedure for testing OPACs and
At USU we
can also take advantage of Serials Solutions’ mobile-optimized search
screen and a variety of applications provided by other vendors. Jensen noted that librarians
should not rely solely on vendor-created applications due to vendors’ tendency to develop
applications that are usable by only a segment of the overall mobile device user population.
He adds that libraries should also avoid developing applications for limited platforms. In
addition, Jensen provides a simple step-by-step process for converting articles retrieved from
a vendor database to a format that can be downloaded from electronic course reserves and
read on a variety of handheld devices.
While using vendor-developed applications is an important strategy, most libraries will find
that developing a mobile-compatible library website is necessary.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND LIBRARIES | JUNE 2012 95
Mobile website development can be accomplished in a variety of ways. At USU we plan to
offer a version of our regular website by employing cascading style sheets (CSS). This
method is described in the paper by Bridges, et al.,
and standard guidelines can be found in
the Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0.
This method will allow the content to be reformatted at
the point of need for a variety of platforms. Results from the USU student survey indicate a
desire to be able to use a mobile device for access to the library catalog, to use services like
reference assistance, find articles, and make study room reservations. The library plans to
include hours and location information, access to existing reference chat and text features,
and links to databases with mobile friendly websites or vendor-created applications in
addition to the resources requested by students. We are still unsure of the best way to
provide links to applications and how to explain the various authentication methods required
by each vendor. While VPN and EZproxy are possible methods to authenticate via mobile
devices, vendors are content at the moment to allow students to access their resources by
setting up an account that is based on an authorized e-mail domain or through a user account
created on the non-mobile version of the resource. In a few cases at USU, mobile applications
from vendors allow access to categories of users such as alumni because they have a usu.edu
e-mail address, although the library does not typically include these patrons in our
authorized remote user group.
Advertising, Assessment, and Policy
Creating a mobile website and offering mobile services are only the beginning of the effort to
provide access to library materials for mobile users. As Wilson and McCarthy found,
advertising is essential;
students won’t use a service they don’t know about. Crafting a
marketing plan with both online and print materials is essential. Educating library staff
members, especially those on the public services front line, is an essential part of promoting
Assessment strategies must be developed in order to focus development strategically.
Periodic surveys and focus groups can inform future development of mobile services and
gauge the impact of currently offered services. Librarians should encourage vendors to
provide usage data for their mobile portals or applications, and libraries can track use data
from their own information technology departments.
Implementation of mobile web services creates the need to develop new policies and to
educate staff. Privacy concerns and the complexities of digital rights management have the
potential to transform the role of the library and its policies.
Patrons will need to be aware
that the library has less control over maintaining privacy when materials are accessed via
third-party mobile applications. Libraries will need to consider how new developments in
pricing models may affect expanding mobile access; one example is HarperCollins’
announcement in early 2011 about a policy requiring libraries to repurchase individual e-
MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES & ACADEMICS | DRESSELHAUS AND SHRODE 96
book titles after a cap on check-outs is reached.
Librarians’ desire to offer reference services or other assistance via mobile devices follows
naturally from their long-standing efforts to enable patrons to ask questions via e-mail, chat,
instant messaging, or SMS text. Instant messaging, chat, and text lend themselves to mobile
access because they are designed for the relatively short exchange that people typically use
when communicating with a handheld device. Offering reference services using SMS text and
chat in particular are relatively easy for libraries to employ because there are many free
services to support them. In some cases, a systems administrator or IT expert may be helpful
in navigating the set-up of chat and text services and to integrate them so that, for example,
when a text message arrives during a time when no one is monitoring the service, a voicemail
message automatically appears in library’s e-mail account. Librarians can find an enormous
amount of advice on the web and in the literature about how to begin offering mobile-
friendly reference, how to expand the virtual reference services they currently provide, and
how to choose among free and fee-based services for their library’s needs and budget. Two
efficient places to begin are Cody Hanson’s special issue of Library Technology Reports, which
provides a thorough overview of mobile devices and their capabilities and straightforward
suggestions for planning and implementation, and M-Libraries, a section of Library Success: a
Best Practices Wiki.
In light of trends toward more widespread use of mobile computing devices and
smartphones, it makes sense for libraries to provide access to their collections and services in
ways that work well with mobile devices. This case study presents the situation at the
Merrill-Cazier Library at Utah State University, where students who responded to a survey
are very interested in mobile access, even if they have not yet purchased a
smartphone or find data plans to be too expensive at this point. As is only reasonable for any
library, at USU we have begun by implementing mobile applications that are available from
vendors of our online catalog and databases because these require minimal effort and no
additional cost. We present ideas for establishing an implementation team and advice for
academic libraries who wish to “go mobile.” We aim to have a concrete plan for the work that
will be required to
optimize the library’s website for mobile access by the fall of 2011. A
significant step is hiring a
digital services librarian to work closely with the webmaster,
electronic resources librarian, and others interested in promoting access to resources and
services via mobile devices. Our vision is to be on track to offer an augmented-reality
experience to our patrons as the 2010 Horizon Report indicates will be an important trend in
the next two to three years. We aim to create an environment in which students can use their
mobile device to gain entry to a new layer of digital information, enhancing their experience
in the physical library.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND LIBRARIES | JUNE 2012 97
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itiesandLibrariesMoveto/206531 (accessed Mar. 30, 2011).
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APPENDIX A. Student Survey Questions
1. Type of student?
4. What is your college?
5. How often do you use the following electronic resources provided by your library?
6. Do you use any of the following devices?
7. Do you use your mobile device or phone for academic purposes (e.g., Blackboard,
electronic course reserves, etc.)?
8. Please list what you use your device to do?
9. Have you ever used a text message to get help using the library?
10. Have you ever used Instant Messaging to get help using the library?
11. If library resources were easily accessible on your mobile devices and if you had such a
device, how likely would you be to use any of the following for assignments or research?
12. What mobile services would you like the library to offer?
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND LIBRARIES | JUNE 2012 101
APPENDIX B. Librarian Survey Questions
1. Type of library?
2. Your job/role in the library?
3. Years working in libraries?
4. Does your library offer mobile device applications for the following electronic resources?
5. Who in your library or on your campus is responsible for implementing or developing
mobile device applications?
6. How long has your library provided access via mobile devices to electronic resources or
7. If you collect use data for library electronic resources, are patrons using the mobile device
applications your library provides?
8. What mobile services do you believe libraries should offer?