10 Ways for Your Library to “Go Mobile”: Part I

I’m currently preparing for a talk I’ll be giving at the LIBER 2012 Conference in Tartu, Estonia in June on Mobile Technologies and Libraries and I thought I’d share some of my discussion about how libraries can start participating in the mobile Web if they haven’t already:

  1. Take No Action
    • The fact is that if you have a website on the Internet, you are already a part of the mobile Web. And between advanced devices such as the iPhone and Andriod phones, innovative browsers such as Opera, and automatic transcoding by major search engines, your site might not look all that bad with no extra effort on your part.
    • Test the appearance, display, and functionality of your website on a variety of phones to determine if any action is necessary at this time.


  2. Mobile Alerts
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    • Mobile alerts are text messages which are delivered to a user’s cell phone to notify them of an event, breaking news item, or other occurrence which they have requested to be informed about by previously subscribing to the service. This method, which is an excellent way to “push” information and strengthen user ties with organizations, is already being utilized by libraries in a variety of ways.
    • There are many applications such as Mozes, Broadtexter (free!), and others that enable organizations to send simultaneous text messages to a list of subscribers. Although this doesn’t solve the problem of a mobile-enabled website, it is a way to connect to patrons via the mobile Web without a large investment of time or funds, and can be used quite effectively in conjunction with some of the other methods in this article.


  4. Mobile Style Sheets
    • Organizations with simple websites and some development resources can create a mobile CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) stylesheet, geared specifically for “handheld” devices.
    • This is an additional stylesheet to the one which is used for a regular website and is brought into play when the user accesses the site from a mobile browser. The stylesheet simplifies the layout and optimizes the website experience for the small screen display.
    • This method works well with basic websites that have content that can be easily reduced to bare bones. Although handheld stylesheets are not supported on all devices, this is a quick way to develop a mobile presence without having to develop a separate website.


  5. Transcoded Websites
    • Transcoding is a technology which takes a regular website and reformats it for display on a tiny mobile screen. When using a mobile device, many search engines including Google will show transcoded versions of webpages as results along with any mobile editions of the site.
    • But developers, as well as users, can transcode websites directly through a free transcoding application such as Skweezer and Mowser which compresses the HTML content of a website to produce a single-column, Spartan version of the original that can be viewed through a mobile browser.


  6. Mobile-Only Websites
    • From RSS Feeds
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      • There are many free applications available to help organizations create their own mobile Web sites such as Winksite which create a mobile versions of websites from RSS feeds. So if you’re using a content management system with RSS feeds available for your website, or a blog, you can quickly and easily transform your site into a mobile one. These programs also provide tools to create QR barcodes, widgets which can be added to desktop websites offering to send the mobile URL to visitors who enter their phone numbers, embed code for adding the site to blogs or other websites, iPhone-only websites, and links to share websites with social networks and communities.
      • WordPress now has a stylesheet which is automatically accessed when readers are viewing your blog via a mobile device, so no need for you to create a mobile version.


    • From Scratch: Mobile Website Development Tools
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      • There are also quite a few free applications such as Zinadoo and dotMobi’s Site Builder that provide FrontPage-like development interfaces for creating mobile websites from scratch.


    • Outsourced: Mobile Development Services
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      • Services such as Boopsie for Libraries offers to transform library websites, and their OPACS into robust destinations for the mobile Web.