Monroe County Library System APProaching Technology with Gusto
By Patricia Uttaro, Director Rochester Public Library & Monroe County Library System
It hasn’t taken long for the phrase “There’s an app for that!” to burrow deep into our cultural conversations and libraries all over have responded with our own. My favorite library apps include the Contra Costa County Library System’s “Snap & Go” product, which really isn’t an app but is a brilliant use of mobile technology; and NYPL’s “Biblion,” which is offering access to their amazing collections in an exciting new way.
The Monroe County Library System in Rochester currently offers access to two apps – the Overdrive Mobile Media Console and LS2 Mobile Catalog for our ILS product, Carl.X from The Library Corporation. The Overdrive app supports Android, Blackberry, Apple iOS, and Windows Phone 7, while the LS2 app supports Android and Apple iOS. Both apps are linked directly from the library’s website (www.libraryweb.org) and are advertised in our libraries.
Since January 2012, mobile devices have been used to access our catalog more than 18,000 times, with iPads, iPhones, and the iPod touch as the most commonly used devices. During the same time, more than 53,000 patron sessions from mobile devices have been recorded in our Overdrive collection. Patron response has been generally positive, especially for LS2 Mobile.
MCLS will debut three new mobile access points in the Fall of 2012. Boopsie (www.boopsie.com) is a 3rd party product that specializes in providing seamless, easy mobile access to information for libraries and other industries. A mobile version of the library system website will also be rolled out this year, as will a new digitizing project. Rochester Voices will focus on the development of an iPad app and website including original content from the Rochester Central Library’s local history collection which features “voices” – diaries, letters, songs, etc. The first phase of this project will contain content from a private collection of material on Kate Gleason, a local legend in Rochester. A little farther in the future are plans for reference service offered from the Central Library via Skype (from home, work, or from a member library) and texting.
The most challenging aspects of rolling out these new mobile services is advertising and training. Although we have seen early adoption of these products by many users, demand is growing exponentially as more people upgrade to smartphones and tablets. Training staff on the use of the products and making them aware of what is available has also been a challenge. Our system’s Emerging Technology Committee members have developed a list of “experts” in the system who can help staff and patrons learn to use the library apps on their devices. The committee has created videos, but also does a lot of in-person, one-on-one training. This has been most helpful.
Mobile access is not going away, and it is critical for every library planning for its future to invest in some sort of mobile application or access to your collections and services. Your patrons will love you for it!