What If You Designed Mobile First?

One of the things I get to do is teach a course for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science on Web Development and Information Architecture. And, one of the things we talk more and more about in that class is developing a library web presences for a mobile environment. This summer the class is even reading a book titled Mobile First.

The thing is, designing for mobile isn’t just something to think about for library websites. It’s something to think about when planning programs, services, and collections that tend to be face-to-face but could really have an on-the-road or on-a-device aspect. For example:

Research and Reference

  • About 15 years ago I used to joke with friends that we should setup library satellites in Starbucks. We were seeing even then a lot of people tmaking Starbucks, and similar places, their office outposts. In the late 90s having a library satellite in a place like Starbucks was a sort of crazy idea. In 2012, that’s no longer the case. While it can be difficult to get out of the library to be where teens are, the technology tools for roaming around your community are available so that you can be in a local mall or pizza place or baseball game with a tablet and a wireless connection and provide services to teens (and anyone else for that matter). What if you were to start to brainstorm with teens, colleagues, and administrators how you could provide service in the community outside of the library using mobile devices? What would it take to get started? How can you work towards getting there?
  • A few weeks ago the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report on the just-in-time information seeking behaviors of adults using mobile devices. (Adults in this case are anyone 18 or over.) The report states, “Users’ ability to access data immediately through apps and web browsers and through contact with their social networks is creating a new culture of real-time information seekers and problem solvers.” What does this mean for how librarians serve teens who are similarly seeking information quickly via their devices? Do we make sure to have chat going on Facebook to make it easy to ask a question of a librarian? Do we make sure we have apps and mobile web presences that make information seeking fast and painless? The answer to both is “yes.” While the report focuses on those 18 and older, it does note that younger (The 18 to 29 age range) mobile users are more likely to perform just-in-time information seeking than older users. That being the case, doesn’t it make sense that teens are a younger audience doing the same and that you need to serve them so that they succeed in that information seeking?

Programs

  • Another Pew Internet and American Life Project report that came out a few weeks ago was on teens and online video. One finding is that, “37% of internet users ages 12-17 participate in video chats with others using applications such as Skype, Googletalk or iChat.” What a great way for you to connect with teens for mobile programs. Teens can be on a device at home, in school, at the house of a friend, or even in the local pizza place. You could have video conversations with teens from anywhere – the library, the school, home, the local Starbucks or pizza place. You and teens don’t have to feel tethered to a location for face-to-face programs. Get out of the library and into the community and stream a video book discussion group or TAB meeting from anywhere.
  • One of the topics I talk a lot about is social reading within the app environment. (I’ll be discussing just that at YALSA’s YA Lit Symposium in November.) The thing is you and the teens you serve should be able to talk about books and reading anywhere and anytime. Again, no need to be tethered to a physical location. That means you can have ongoing book discussions with teens on their devices using apps like Subtext. While reading a book with friends, and librarians, it’s possible to have conversations about what’s happening in the text, what doesn’t quite make sense, and even other books that might be of interest. A teen might be riding the bus to school, reading the latest Ally Carter, and talking with you and her friends about the book right from inside the book on her mobile device.

Collections

  • We talk a lot in libraries about e-books, circulation of e-books, and making sure teens have access to e-books via their mobile devices. We should. Yet, there’s something else that we need to talk about and that’s apps and how they fit into library collections. Sure, you might not be circulating apps, yet. But, you do need to think about them and how to connect teens who are mobile with the apps that best suit their needs. Perhaps it’s starting to add apps to Pinterest boards and resource lists so that teens know what’s available, even if it’s not from the library. Maybe it’s suggesting to parents, grandparents, and others who ask for gift-giving advice the apps that a teen might want to have on a device. (YALSA’s App of the Week is a great resource for starting to learn about apps.) Apps are a big part of the mobile culture and you need to be in on that. (As a matter of fact the Pew Internet and American Life Project also recently published a report on parents and app downloading. It’s well worth investigating.)

What does all of this mean within the context of think mobile first? It means every time you talk with teens about anything you develop for and with them, you want to discuss how it can work in a mobile environment. Is it something that should be only mobile-based? Is it something that needs a mobile component? Is it something that requires you to get out of the library’s physical space so that you can reach the most teens possible? Mobile is everywhere. Embrace it and do that by thinking mobile first, the rest will follow.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.
Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.