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Libraries and the Mobile Web

What evidence would provide a good indication that the day had come for your library to focus concerted efforts on mobile services? If nearly all Americans owned cell phones? Maybe if a large percentage of those phone owners demonstrably used their device to access the internet? Perhaps if smartphone sales began to approach sales of PCs? If major information service providers were shifting their focus from the desktop to mobile devices? If the trend turned away from mobile devices mimicking the functions of desktop computers, and instead desktops began to emulate mobiles? Maybe if there was evidence that traditional desktop connectivity wasn’t reaching people who could be reached on their mobile devices?

If so, then that day is today.

The evidence is compelling. The vast majority of Americans now own cell phones. Nearly half use them to access the internet. In Q4 of 2010, manufacturers shipped more smartphones than they did traditional PCs. Underrepresented groups are accessing the mobile internet in impressive numbers. Google is developing for mobile first and the desktop second. Apple is in the midst of making its desktop computers behave more like its mobile devices. If your library, like mine (and every library I can think of), has been transformed by desktop computing and internet access, now is the time to take action and be proactive in providing robust services to mobile users.

-Cody Hanson

Cody Hanson is Web Architect and User Experience Analyst at the University of Minnesota Libraries, where he works to make the online research process more intuitive and fruitful for students, staff and faculty. He was a 2010 ALA Emerging Leader, and he co-chairs the LITA Education Committee. As an adjunct faculty member at Saint Catherine University, he has taught “Library 2.0” in the Master of Library and Information Science program.

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