April 23, 2018

Adding Apps | Technology in Focus

As smartphones become ubiquitous, libraries and vendors are responding with new apps, features, and mobile-friendly websites

When LJ conducted its “Mobile Library Services 2010” survey, 44% of respondents from public libraries reported that they didn’t currently offer any services designed for mobile phones and that they had no plans to offer such services in the future. Thirty-five percent of respondents from academic libraries said the same.

They can be forgiven for their lack of foresight. When the survey was conducted, Google’s Android OS had launched only a year and a half earlier. Apple’s iPhone had sold more than 40 million units globally since its mid-2007 launch, but LJ’s survey respondents weren’t seeing this early growth of the consumer smartphone market translate into much traffic for their websites or catalogs. In the 2010 survey, 89% of public library respondents said that mobile access accounted for less than 9% of the total traffic to their sites. Zero libraries reported that mobile devices generated more than 15% of traffic.

Times have certainly changed. The “Public Library Mobile App Survey 2018,” conducted by LJ Research and sponsored by SirsiDynix, is our first survey devoted exclusively to mobile device trends in libraries in eight years. According to a February 2018 report by the Pew Research Center, 95% of Americans now own a cell phone, and 77% now own a smartphone. LJ’s survey reveals how libraries have been adapting to this sea change.

Of the 618 respondents—excluding duplicate responses from the same library—37% now currently have a mobile app for their library and 72% offer a website with mobile- optimized/responsive web design features.

App offerings correlate with the size of library systems. Only 22% of respondents from libraries serving fewer than 25,000 patrons said that their library offered an app, while almost 70% of those from libraries serving 500,000 or more did. Mobile optimization was more consistent, with 65% of the smallest systems describing their websites as mobile- friendly. Between 74% and 77% of respondents from medium, large, and very large systems said the same.

Among respondents without an app, one-fifth said lack of funding had prevented their library from offering one, while 30% said that their library’s mobile-friendly site negated the need. Also, 16% said the library recommends individual vendor apps for different resources.

Respondents were asked to list vendor apps commonly recommended to patrons, which were led by OverDrive/ Libby (86%), followed by RBdigital (51%), hoopla (39%), Mango Languages (37%), Zinio (35%), Freegal (22%), cloudLibrary (12%), Axis 360 (10%), Freading (8%), BiblioBoard (7%), Comics Plus (3%), SimplyE (2%), and others (15%).

Use and features

Of the 37% of respondents whose libraries do offer an app, about one-third of respondents from small (32%), medium (32%), large (35%), and very large (29%) systems alike use one developed by Boopsie, making the Demco subsidiary the most-used vendor. SirsiDynix was second, used by 18% of respondents, while 12% use Bibliocommons. Small libraries spent an average of $3,770 on their app, while very large systems spent an average of $12,000. One in five respondents with an app said that their library offers access through a consortium, and 60% of such consortium apps enabled branding for each system.

In aggregate, respondents with an app estimated that about 12% of patrons use it. Separately, about one-third of these respondents said that the library’s app appeals to specific user segments, citing parents, young adults, students, tech-savvy patrons, and power users; 6% said “everyone but seniors.”

These libraries market their app via their website (64%), social media (35%), word of mouth (30%), flyers (22%), posters or signage (19%), library newsletter (12%), bookmarks (6%), library card registration (6%), or email campaigns (6%). Word-of-mouth campaigns were especially popular for libraries serving populations of 50,000 or more, possibly because medium and large libraries may have more staff than smaller systems.

Asked to list all of the functions their apps currently offer, 97% said access to the catalog, followed by a library event calendar (68%), in-app ebook and e-audiobook checkout (60%), mobile library card/digital barcode (60%), integration with e-resources such as Zinio (47%), social media integration (39%), text messaging/push notifications (28%), remote sign-up for events (27%), mapping (26%), fine payment (26%), patron reviews (24%), streaming media (22%), features for kids and teens such as homework help (18%), librarian chat (9%), and other (7%).

Of the most wanted features currently absent from their apps, fine payment topped the list, requested by 69% of respondents, followed by library calendar/events (62%), ebook/e-audio checkouts (56%), mobile library card/digital barcode (55%), remote sign-up for events and/or new library cards (51%), and text messaging/push notifications (51%).

For more insights and benchmarking data, check out the full survey results here.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com, @matthewenis on Twitter, matthewenis.com) is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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Comments

  1. nice article to clear the confusion.

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