This case study describes the implementation and further development of the Library Anywhere App at Queen Margaret University.
With the ever increasing growth in the use of smartphones by students and the growing availability of apps and mobile friendly webpages for e-resources and services of all kinds, the library service at QMU recognized the need to investigate further what was available and how the information could be presented to library users. An objective to this end was incorporated into the Learning Resource Centre (LRC) Operational Plan for 2011-12.
In late summer 2011 LibraryAnywhere was chosen as the means to offer the service. Although initially the only services available via the App were the library catalogue, access to student library accounts and opening hours the service has progressed and now offers links to mobile access to electronic resources and various information pages and services from the LRC website.
About the Institution
Queen Margaret University was founded in 1875 as the Edinburgh School of Cookery with a remit to improve female education and career opportunities, and to bring about an improvement in diet, especially among poor working class families. Cumulative developments since then saw the institution achieve full university title in 2007. Its founding principles are still present in today’s mission statement of “enhancing the well-being of individuals and the communities we serve through socially and economically relevant education and research”.
There had been an increasing awareness amongst library staff of the growing numbers and use of smartphones, particularly by students around the campus. At the end of 2010 Edinburgh Napier University ran a mobile phone survey with their students to which QMU also had access and was able to repurpose for our students. Results were made available in January 2011 and indicated –
- The level of use and type of mobile phones
- To what use students were putting their phones
- The services that they would like to be able to access via their phone.
At the same time there was increasing comment on discussion lists about the interest in mobile access to library services; what could or should be provided and how this could be achieved. There was also an increasing desire at QMU to provide at least mobile access to the library catalogue and student library accounts.
A small group of staff, drawn from Library Services and Information Services, were tasked with reviewing potential options for providing mobile access. As part of their remit the group was expected also to consider costs, time and resources available to implement any possible solution, long term maintenance, and further development potential beyond simply providing access to the catalogue and library accounts. Provision of mobile services was added to the Library Services operational plan for the academic year 2011-12.
The group was tasked with exploring the options for mobile delivery of services reported in summer 2011. They identified 5 options described below:
- Institutional App, which could include library services, created in house.
- Third party institutional app
- Mobile offering from LMS vendor - III Millennium AirPac module
- Google Sites page listing information and links created in house
- LibraryAnywhere App
Each of these options had different advantages and drawbacks once cost, staff resource and timescales were taken into consideration. The third party app and the mobile offering from our LMS vendor were quickly discounted due to cost considerations. An institutional app was also discounted fairly quickly on grounds of the timescale involved in commissioning, planning and implementing an institution-wide service. Staff resource and developmental experience were also issues as QMU is a small university with some restriction on the skills available. This left the Google Sites and LibraryAnywhere options as the only viable alternatives.
Google Sites was a free option and there was sufficient staff resource and experience within Library and Information Services to be able to create and populate a mobile friendly site within a reasonable timeframe. The QMU Library catalogue basic search box is available as a plugin. It was possible to add links to library accounts and other library services information pages to the Google Sites page, so a Google Sites page was created.
LibraryAnywhere, although a commercial product, is not expensive and the admin site is easy to use. A trial was arranged to pilot the LibraryAnywhere app.
The Google Sites page was not well received by the bulk of the library staff. It was perceived as unfriendly to the users. It was felt that for a quick check for information, users would prefer to use an app which gave them this information directly, rather than navigating to a website. At this time members of Library and Information Services staff were also very involved with a walk-in access project, which took priority in staff time.
In July 2011 the decision was taken to go with LibraryAnywhere as a means of providing mobile access to the Library catalogue and student accounts and an annual subscription to the resource was taken out.
The catalogue search box is embedded in the app and pulls information back into the app rather than displaying it on the catalogue page. Similarly on logging into the library account via the app using the reader’s standard institutional login, the information shown is a trimmed down version of that shown when using the library web pages. Users are able to view the status of holds placed on print stock via the catalogue, view their borrowing history, and their fines status and history.
Little further development was made to LibraryAnywhere for most of the 2011-12 academic year, as during most of this time members of Library Services staff were also very involved with a walk-in access project, which took priority for staff time. However publisher and service provider emails to discussion lists, reporting mobile availability of their e-journals pages were stored, as were emails and blog posts to the m-libraries group pages.
Work commenced in August/September 2012 to add links to the LibraryAnywhere app directing users to the mobile information pages on publisher and database provider websites.
Many of these sites allow for synchronization of the app to the institutional entitlements when set up when on campus. QMU recommends that its users use these routes to mobile access, as, although shibboleth provides a straightforward method of authentication when not logged into the university network, it is far easier to have authentication already in place via the synchronization offered.
eBook supplier websites are not included in these listing as all ebooks to which QMU has access have MARC records in the catalogue and access is available from there.
The liaison team is incorporating the promotion of LibraryAnywhere into their programme of marketing. This includes ‘guerilla’ stalls in the University canteen, workshops, promotion via social media, twitter, Facebook and the LRC blog.
The LibraryAnywhere app was installed at QMU and now provides the following links:
- direct access to the library catalogue, the ability to search for all our resources and place holds on print materials
- the ability to check a library account, renew books and check fines
- books a group study room
- locate a free thin-client terminal
- check location, opening hours and library contacts
- e-resource links to publisher information pages for setting up mobile access
- links to the institution FAQ pages
- links to the Library news blog and Twitter account
Usage statistics are available via the Admin site and show spikes of use when additional links have been added, particularly in Sept 2012 and Nov 2012, when the e-resource links were added and publicised. This is likely associated with Induction for the new session.
Since then, use has been steady throughout the academic year and while a falloff is to be expected over the summer months we would expect use to rise again with the new session and further publication.
LibraryAnywhere is inexpensive, and although currently the screens can only be customized by paying a higher subscription, the existing layout is clear and clean. It provides the Library with the means to provide mobile access to our resources but at a fraction of the cost of a bespoke app. Future development is easily sustainable within the staff resource of the Library and staff at QMU would recommend the service to other libraries aiming to provide mobile access to their services.
Anecdotal feedback has confirmed that students like the app and use the links to the services it offers to them, however very positive feedback was received on 11th April 2013 from a member of academic staff via the Library Twitter account.
- (Academic staff) What is library anywhere exactly?
- (QMULRC) It’s an app that is freely available. U can log into renew books but also look at mobile versions of ejournals/databases
- (Academic staff) that is sooooo cool!
- (QMULRC) Thanks. We think so too!
- (Academic staff after downloading it) Hurrah! I love it J
If we were undertaking the process again, we would still choose LibraryAnywhere as the means of providing mobile access to resources. However, we would ensure that the project proceeded continuously and would have avoided having months where very little information was added to the app. It is possible that by working in this way that a full launch could have taken place and also that the resource could have had more impact on new students as it could have been incorporated more fully in Library induction at the start of the academic session.
Barbara Houston – Technical Services Manager, Learning Services at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
Date of creation
15th April 2013
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