Libraries are facing a vast and never-ending challenge: how to keep pace with the rapidly changing technological landscape and ensure the services they provide tap into the new technologies which are infiltrating society.
Statistics from 2013 indicate that 51% of UK adults now own a smartphone and ownership of tablet devices also increased significantly in 2013; tablet ownership more than doubled in the past year, and half of owners say they now couldn't live without their tablet (Ofcom, 2012).
Libraries are innovating to try to meet the evolving technological challenge they face. Innovations in mobile services include mobile apps to administer library records, text message services reminding users of book return dates, instant chat services and live lab initiatives involving the rental of mobile devices to users.
There is no doubt that the potential mobile services a library could offer its users are vast and exciting. Is it possible for libraries, so often weighed down by heavily bureaucratic structures, to create and deliver cutting-edge services and quench the users’ thirst for efficient new mobile services?
The purpose of this study was to evaluate mobile services in academic libraries, specifically focusing on using Leeds University Library, one of the ten largest university libraries in the UK, as a case study. The study directly investigates user need, and subsequently constructs mechanisms which can be implemented by librarians, allowing them to act as enablers to develop and enhance mobile service provision accordingly.
Data from two online questionnaires was complemented by more qualitative data from focus groups with library users at Leeds to establish trends, patterns and themes which informed the direction suggested for developing a future mobile service at Leeds University Library which will allow it to innovate, energize and invigorate its library services in a future-proof way.
Mobile technology in society and the library context
The proliferation of mobile technologies in society is creating a cultural paradigm shift in the way information is disseminated and knowledge is consumed. There are over 5.9 billion global mobile subscribers (Inter - national Telecommunications Union, 2011). Research into estimates suggest that over 1 billion smartphones will be sold in 2014 (Gartner, 2011) and there will be an estimated 10 billion mobile internet devices by 2016 (Cisco, 2012).