How to Develop a Mobile Strategy for Your Library

If you’re thinking of bringing your library into the mobile realm, here are some tips for creating your strategic plan.

Ask Questions

  • The first step you’ll want to take is to ask questions of your patrons. What devices do your patrons use? Do the majority of your patrons own iPhones and high-end mobile devices or do they own basic phones that may be using older technology? This will be key in determining factors such as programming language you will want to use, media types to include or exclude, as well as whether or not it’s appropriate for you to “go mobile” at this time.

  • What types of mobile information and services would your patrons want from your library? If you work in a law firm library, odds are your patrons aren’t going to find a library presence on Foursquare of much use, but they may find QR codes or mobile access to your OPAC a great asset. Public library patrons may want to access computer station availability information while on their way to the library, while academic library patrons may want text reference services. Check out Library Journal’s 2012 Patron Profiles, a survey of 2,000 library patrons which reports on the mobile services and info they want most.



Start Small and Experiment

  • Start small and leave room to learn, experiment with trial initiatives first. By starting with something lightweight and free such as a QR code campaign, you can provide library decision-makers with proof-of-concept that your patrons are amenable to mobile content and services. When just getting started, go for the options that don’t have a large learning curve so that you can jump in and get your feet wet such as claiming your venue on Foursquare, or offering text alerts.


Consider opportunities of the mobile channel

  • Creating a mobile Web experience is not about transforming an entire Web site into a miniature version of its desktop self, it is about providing valuable information for people who do not have access to a personal computer. Think about what your patrons might find useful on the go. Hint: it’s not your collection development policy! Provide them with time-sensitive information such as when a workshop is starting, library hours, real-time computer availability, etc. as well as personalized info such as access to their accounts, info on holds placed, the ability to renew items, etc.

  • Keep in mind that location-aware applications and services are unique to the mobile realm, so why not use them to engage patrons? Interact with them on Foursquare by providing tips and check-in incentives, make sure you have a “place” on Facebook Places.

  • Texting is another service that is unique to the mobile arena, and one which is widely adopted. Think about offering the ability for your patrons to text themselves catalog records, consider offering text reference services, and you may even initiate a text alerts service to remind patrons when their books are coming due or when a workshop they’ve registered for is coming up.