By virtue of a discussion taking place on the LIS-MMIT JISCMAIL list I recently found the M-Library Project (http://mlib.blog.com/) which (to paraphrase) is a collaborative project between the University of the Highlands & Islands (UHI) and Edinburgh Napier University. Funded by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) it examines user attitudes towards the creation of mobile support services in UK academic libraries, and looks at technologies currently in use in UK academic libraries.
They’ve recently published a report of their findings (http://mlib.blog.com/files/2011/09/The-M-Library-Project-UK-Academic-Libraries-Going-Mobile.pdf) and it draws out some interesting statistics. Firstly, and most interesting to me, was the question of whether or not the students knew what a QR code was: 82% replied saying that they didn’t. Only 8% were found to have actually downloaded a QR code reader to their phone and this certainly suggests that for a project like M-biblio (which will utilise QR codes but also other technology), that some effort will need to be put into raising awareness of both the project and the technologies involved.
“82% of students questioned didn’t know what a QR code was”
The second interesting set of statistics drawn out in the report were that nearly 70% of students taking part in the survey (1061 in total) said they owned a smart phone and 50% of those said that they regularly use their mobile phone to browse the web.
More pertinent to this project however were the stats on those utilising their mobile phone for investigating library resources, with only 15% having used it to access the web pages or services of the universities’ libraries in question. The most common service found to be used was for renewing books online. However, and perhaps critically, 90% responded saying that they would like access to at least one library service directly on their mobile phone. It seems from this that the market for an app which can facilitate the collection of bibliographic references may well be there waiting for us.
“90% of students said they would like access to at least one library service on their mobile phone“
Both Mike and I feel slightly disappointed that the technology on current smart phones is not really existent to enable us to pursue the idea of looking into near field communications (NFC). This would have enabled a smart phone app to capture data from RFID tags on books and journals passively. However, in the near future, this should be feasible and we need to keep our eye on the mobile phone market in order to track what technologies are included on the latest models, such as the upcoming iPhone 5 if and when it finally appears.
“NFC technology isn’t sufficiently developed on current mobile phones to enable passive capture of data via RFID tags”
It certainly won’t be long before these kinds of technologies are widely available and with this in mind it’s interesting to note another statistic that the M-Library report pulled out which was that within the UK there was a 70% rise in smart phone numbers between 2009 and 2010. It’s also interesting to note that students seem to change their mobile phones on a very regular basis. 81% of those surveyed had owned their current mobile for less than 18 months and 61% had owned their current mobile phone for less than a year. This shows that new technologies emerging within the mobile phone field very quickly saturate the market.
The report is a very interesting one for anybody considering employing mobile technology within a library context and it also has a good reference section which points towards a lot of other reports and articles around the centre – highly recommended.