Over the last two years, many library-specific mobile products have been announced or released. We last covered the arena of mobile applications related to library automation in the March 2010 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter. In this month's newsletter, we survey the major products currently available, focusing on those that have emerged or have been significantly enhanced in the last year. The products mentioned here do not necessarily constitute a comprehensive list of every mobile product available to libraries, but rather a few examples of some of current offerings.
SirsiDynix launched its BookMyne as a free mobile service in January 2010. BookMyne provides a basic library presence including catalog search and the ability for patrons to login to their account and view items currently charged. The library can customize its presence in BookMyne with their own logo, a photo of their library facilities, a link to their Web site, opening hours, and other customized information.
BookMyne itself is available to libraries without an additional fee and is available to library patrons as a free download. Currently, BookMyne is available only for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, though an Android version is forthcoming. Once a patron has downloaded the BookMyne app, they are able to discover and access the participating libraries. While they can view details about any library they find through BookMyne and search their catalogs, they will only be able to sign in to access their account or make requests for the library for which they are a registered patron.
Libraries can participate in BookMyne if they operate either Symphony version 3.3 or Horizon 7.5 and if they have installed the optional Web Services module. Web Services exposes a selected set of APIs from the underlying ILS available to external systems. Though developed to support patron interfaces such as BookMyne, other applications can be programmed to take advantage of Web Services to gain access to ILS functionality. SirsiDynix initially made Web Services available to libraries using Symphony in 2010; Web services for Horizon was released in March 2011. SirsiDynix offers Web Services to libraries operating supported versions of Symphony or Horizon without cost.
SirsiDynix released BookMyne 2.1 in March 2011 with new features that include LDAP authentication, integrated barcode scanning, expanded functionality related to My Lists, the ability to display New York Times bestseller lists, integration with reading-oriented social services such as GoodReads, the ability for patrons to view their fines and fees and to change their PIN. This version of BookMyne also includes a tool for patron self-registration for libraries interested in offering this service. BookMyne stands as one of the few mobile applications available without direct cost to the library. As long as the library meets the required prerequisites of operating a recent version of either Symphony or Horizon and implements Web services, it can rely on BookMyne to provide a basic mobile presence. The potential user base for BookMyne will expand as SirsiDynix deploys versions for devices other than iPhones and as more libraries implement its Web Services option. SirsiDynix BookMyne was covered in the March 2010 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter.
LibraryAnywhere from Library Thing
LibraryThing, partially owned by R.R. Bowker, offers a mobile application for libraries called LibraryAnywhere. Leveraging the integration technologies created for the LibraryThing for Libraries service for layering tags and other social content into library catalogs, LibraryThing has been able to develop a mobile catalog that operates with any of the major ILS products. LibraryAnywhere offers a competitive set of features relative to the mobile catalog products offered at a price that undercuts most alternatives. LibraryAnywhere operates on the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. LibraryAnywhere was covered in the March 2010 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter.
The Library Corporation
The Library Corporation offers LS2 Mobile for its library customers that use either Carl.X or Library.Solution. LS2 Mobile operates as an extension to LS2 PAC, the company's next-generation patron interface, which likewise operates with either of TLC's ILS products.
Features offered by LS2 Mobile include the ability to search the library's catalog, view results enhanced with cover images, to login with their library ID number and PIN, view patron account information, and to place or cancel holds. Patrons with LS2 Mobile can search the catalog of their own library or other participating libraries that have implemented LS2 PAC, though they can only sign into their own library. TLC launched the original version of LS2 PAC in November 2010 as a native application for Apple's iOS, supporting iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. A version for the Android platform was released August 2011.
MyMobileLibrary from Boopsie
Boopsie entered the library mobile space early and has established itself as one of the leading providers of mobile library technologies. Boopsie can integrate with most library ILS products and offers a templatebased approach to deploying a library Web site. Boopsie supports any Web-enabled phone, with optimized apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry devices. In addition to libraries, Boopsie offers mobile products for universities, and other industries such as eeal estate and trade shows.
Boopsie offers a mobile application, called MyMobileLibrary, compatible with any of the major ILS products. The standard package includes a library locator that allows a patron to find their local library based on their location, an aska- librarian service, catalog search, the ability place holds on library materials, view account information including fines and fees owed reading lists, a calendar of events, blogs and twitter links, and integration with the local ILS. The application can be customized to be consistent with the color scheme and logos of the library's site. It includes a content management tool that allows libraries to easily integrate the content to be delivered to its mobile site through Google Docs. The catalog search makes use of Boopsie's own servers, based on an export of MARC records from the library ILS, which is kept in sync through weekly updates.
Boopsie offers an Optimum Package that includes additional features such as its BookLook Mobile, which integrates barcode scanning technology to support the ability that reads ISBNs to see if library owns an item. It also allows users to place reserves and includes BookCheck, which allows patrons to check out their own materials in the library. Boopsie also offers Overdrive Access, providing oneclick access to titles from the library's Overdrive collection.
TechLogic – Boopsie partnership
A collaboration between TechLogic—a company specializing in products related to self-check and automated material handling--and Boopsie was formed to produce a suite of products that takes library self-service to a new level, allowing patrons to use their smartphones for self-service in libraries that have implemented RFID. This joint effort has produced the first mobile library self-check mobile application compatible with RFID security.
The basic concept involves allowing patrons to use their smartphone to check items out to themselves from anywhere within the library, avoiding the need to line up at a self-check station or service desk. For libraries that have implemented RFID, an additional step is required to deactivate the security bit on the RFID tag so that the item can pass through the library's security gates without sounding an alarm. This roving smartphone-based self-check service is now available using a specialized mobile app developed by Boopsie and a security station provided by TechLogic, branded under the name MyMobileLibrary.
The MyMobileLibrary app is an enhanced library smartphone program that includes the usual mobile catalog features, plus the ability for patrons to perform self-service circulation using a supported smartphone. Self-service has transformed many libraries by using selfcheck stations to supplement or even replace circulation transactions performed by a library staff member at a service desk. Self-check has allowed many libraries to operate with fewer personnel and to redeploy staff members in ways that offer more in-depth or in-person services of higher value and interest. Allowing library patrons to use their smartphones instead of library provided self-service stations may facilitate time savings and convenience, especially for busy libraries. MyMobileLibrary currently operates by reading the barcode printed on the RFID tag, accomplishing the self-check through a secure login to the ILS.
One of the key features of an RFID implementation involves preventing the removal of unauthorized materials. When charged to a patron at a service desk or a self-check station, the security bit of the tag is deactivated, allowing a patron to carry it past the exit controls without sounding an alarm. To complete a self-check through a patron's own smartphone using MyMobileLibrary, it's necessary to deactivate the security bit of the tag as a separate step. This component of the product, called MyMobileLibrary: Security Kiosk, is provided by TechLogic. One of these stations would be positioned near the exit of the library, so that patrons can quickly complete their self-checkouts. Patrons simply place their items on the kiosk shelf, which initiates a process that interrogates the ILS and deactivates the security bit on the RFID tags for all of the items that have been properly charged and flags any with problems.
MyMobileLibrary was initially deployed in the Los Angeles Public Library Silver Lake Branch, branded LAPL to Go. The product is expected to be generally available by Fall 2011.
LogiXML, a company with a background in non-library sectors has developed a data mining and analytics tool targeting academic libraries. The company has developed a suite of library-specific applications, called Logi Insight for Libraries, designed to extract data from all the different components of its automation infrastructure. This allows the library to create comprehensive reports regarding the use of library resources and services. The tools work by creating connections and interoperability into the integrated library system, interlibrary loan, electronic resource management tools, discovery services, and other applications to mine data that can be exploited to help libraries make management decisions based on detailed usage data.
Logi Insight for Libraries was created in collaboration with New York University, Boston College, and Texas Tech University. It includes a wide range of standard reports plus the ability for the library to create custom reports. Budget dashboards allow library administrators to visually see the status of any given budget category. In June 2011 LogiXML released eResource Analytics, an extension to its basic Logi Insight for Libraries product that tracks and analyzes e-resource use and financial data to help libraries assess the value of each of their content products and to make informed decisions regarding renewals and potential new procurements.
This same infrastructure can also provide a platform for creating mobile library applications. Boston College, for example, an early partner with LogiXML, developed their mobile application using LogiXML technology that helps students find library materials. Based on Logi Insight for Libraries, Logi Mobile offers many of the usual features such as the ability for patrons to view their library record, to check the availability of materials assigned for courses, to search and browse library catalogs, and place holds on library materials.
Innovative Interfaces AirPAC
Innovative Interfaces has offered a mobile catalog product longer than any other library automation vendor. The company launched Millennium AirPAC in June 2001 to support small wireless devices such as PDAs, long before smartphones became popular consumer devices. The initial version of Air- PAC provided a basic catalog interface, interacting with the XML server component of Millennium.
In 2010, Innovative revamped the AirPAC to support modern smartphone platforms. Libraries that had purchased the original product were eligible for a free upgrade to the AirPAC platform for Smartphones. Platforms supported include the Blackberry Storm, iPhone, Android, and the Palm Pre. Features available include catalog search using the RightResults relevancy search technology that Innovateive developed to sort results in ways appropriate for library resources, display of cover images, and access to the patron's MyMillennium account, including the ability to place requests to reserve items, and to renew items charged. The product integrates with the Google Map API to display the location of library branches.
Innovative's AirPAC for Smartphones was covered in the March 2010 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter (A Decade of Mobile at Innovative).
Polaris Mobile PAC
Polaris offers the Polaris Mobile PAC, launched in January 2010, offering mobile access to the online catalog of the Polaris ILS. Features available include catalog search, display of library hours, and new or popular title lists. Catalog search results include cover art, current status information such as branches available, with links to place requests. Patrons may login to view their library account, make requests, and access an ask-a-librarian service, update their address information, view their reading history, list items currently charged, and any fees or fines due. The Polaris Mobile Pac supports the iPhone, Android, and the Blackberry.
BiblioCommons offers a mobile app with features related to search and tracking and managing borrowed items. Its search capabilities follow the same library-specific relevancy ranking employed by the Web version, with cover image display for items in search results. Searches can be limited according to specified criteria such as location, audience, format, topics or other categories. Users can view the current status and availability of items, place requests for holds, and can rate items. A view of account status shows any items overdue, items coming due, total items checked out, holds placed and available, recent returns, and any fines or fees due. The app includes a built-in barcode scanner that can be used in the library to look up information on items. Libraries can customize the app with their own logo, branch details and with GPS-based location maps. The BiblioCommons app also allow patrons to browse librarydefined lists such as best sellers, recently received titles, or materials recently reviewed by other BiblioCommons users.
WorldCat Mobile was released as a full production service in June 2011. OCLC has offered mobile access to WorldCat since January 2009, when it launched its original WorldCat Mobile pilot to libraries in North America. The pilot was extended to selected countries in Europe the following June. This project was done in partnership with Boopsie, using its development platform as the basis for a mobile app to search WorldCat. This pilot effort has been superseded, with a transition from the Boopsie-based app to the current WorldCat Mobile Web site completed in June 2011. WorldCat Mobile features the ability to search WorldCat and find holdings in the user's home or nearby libraries. Libraries subscribing to WorldCat Local will see some of its distinctive features such as linkages with the back-end ILS.
Mobile Discovery All Around
Each of the organizations offering broad discovery services also offers a mobile version, generally taking advantage of the expanded search scope of search, including results including books, scholarly content, and digital content represented in the library's index. Discovery services with such mobile versions include Primo, Summon, and EBSCO Discovery Service.
This brief survey demonstrates the wide variety of mobile products available to libraries and that there is steady progress on developing new products and exploring some innovative ways to improve library services through these technologies. Regardless of the automation system or discovery service employed, libraries can gain a mobile presence, usually within modest pricing and often as a free service. Yet, these mobile applications are fairly early in their development cycle. We can anticipate additional enhancements to the functionality available, which over time will approach equivalent capabilities to their full-Web counterparts. Today, the main competition among library technology providers lies in having some type of mobile product available. As demand by library patrons expands, the strategic importance of these products will likewise increase.