Mobilizing the Library

In this digital age, libraries around the world are “rebooting” to commence phase two of their evolution. Over the past decade, we’ve seen library collections evolve to include digital services like e-book lending, video streaming and MP3 downloads. Today, as “library patron” and “consumer” become functionally interchangeable terms, libraries everywhere are ramping their offerings and boosting their appeal with easy access to growing suites of high-value products and services.

Gone are the days when libraries served as silent storehouses for books. Libraries are now dynamic spaces where you can access the electronic version of the latest New York Times best seller, digital newspapers and magazines from around the world, ancestry data, and even #trending apps.

Despite all that the modern digital library has to offer, library usage has for years been lagging slightly in comparison to the rate of change and development. However, librarians are working to remedy this issue by providing patrons with the ultimate convenience: physical and virtual delivery of library content.

Reaching Out
Over the past several years, libraries in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain have developed “Mobile Library” programs that have proven to be successful in generating community interest and usage. Australia’s Yarra Plenty Regional Library’s mobile library program is one that is particularly notable. In 2006, a state-of-the-art semi-truck was outfitted to become quite literally a public library on wheels – complete with internet access and an expansive collection of over 14,000 -items and touring neighborhoods Monday to Friday.

Mobile libraries have become such a powerful extension of the community library – so much so that the International Federation of Library Associations put together a comprehensive handbook on mobile library guidelines, outlining stop criteria, approved vehicle types and operational costs.

Library in Your Pocket
In this age of perpetual connectivity, libraries like the New York Public Library, the National Library Board of Singapore and the University of British Columbia library are taking advantage of our device dependency by creating mobile optimized websites. By doing so, libraries are poised to reap the benefits of increased site visitation and usage, as global mobile traffic now accounts for 15% of all internet traffic. Research has also shown that people have better opinions of brands, businesses and organizations when they offer a good mobile website experience.

Some libraries have also taken matters a step further by offering their patrons mobile apps to access collections, often free of charge. In many libraries around the world today, patrons can enjoy access to their favorite newspapers and magazines and conveniently download them to their devices for offsite reading.

Librarians are working hard to revolutionize the library experience. By both physically and digitally extending the library into the community in tandem with improving offerings, usage and visitation – numbers can be expected to rise.

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