Mobilising The Library Website

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A few weeks ago a discussion was going on via Twitter about the possibility of creating an iphone app for library websites using Bloapp. The benefits of using this service were that it was quick and easy and provided another way to offer a service to library users. Put simply, Bloapp takes an RSS feed for your site and makes it available as an app within the Bloapp service. (More details from Ned Potter here). After having a look at it, I didn’t feel it offered enough functionality for a mobile app/site. Most blogs automatically display pretty well on modern internet enabled phones without the need to set up an extra service like this.

However, it did get me thinking about what a mobile enabled library site for my library service, Surrey County Council Libraries, might contain and how I might want to achieve that. So I came up with my own criteria for a prototype site, taking on board some of Ned’s points.

  • Quick to set up (max 1 hour).
  • Easy to set up.
  • Free to set up.
  • Accessible to as many mobile internet users as possible.
  • Ability to display RSS feeds (eg Library news; Library Twitter).
  • Ability to display static web page information (eg Library location; services).
  • Capability of searching the library catalogue.
  • Capability of creating a mobile site with a reasonable number of web pages.
  • QR code access.
SCC Lib Test site QR Code

With this in mind, I went looking for sites that either allowed you to convert your website into a mobile site, or allowed you to create one. I didn’t think an app was the best way to go, as this automatically limits it to the type of phone that can access the website.

I found 16 sites that looked promising at first, but none of them gave me anything vaguely near what I wanted to create, quickly and easily. A handful (including Winksite; Mobisitegalore;  Onbile; Mippin) allowed me to create sites that had some of the features I needed, but none gave me the full package.

However, I also decided to see how easy it would be to use Weebly, a free website creator service, which isn’t a dedicated mobile site creator, but might do the job just as well.

Well, it did the job much better than any of the other services available and within an hour I’d built from scratch a mobile site prototype that included all the functionality I wanted.

It had:

  • Embedded RSS Twitter and news feeds
  • A range of pages about services provided by Surrey Libraries, including the stub of a page indicating where libraries are located (information cut, pasted and tailored from the main library website)
  • A way to search the catalogue (Weebly allows HTML code to be pasted easily into the site)
  • QR code access
  • It displays reasonably on a range of phones

It isn’t perfect (it is a prototype after all) and some of the links go to the main library site, but given another couple of hours it could be tidied up, so that it was a more or less self-contained mobile site. I know this means it would take longer than setting up the Bloapp site, but in terms of the extras library users could get from this, I think it’s worth spending a little extra time.

The main problem I have is the catalogue search going to the main site once the search has been run, but in a way I have overcome the biggest problem with searching the catalogue, which was the lack of clarity/cleanness of the initial catalogue search function when displayed on some mobile phones. Once I get to the search results my initial frustration has been overcome, so I suppose I have achieved what I want, but it isn’t perfect.

The site can be found at http://scclibtest.weebly.com/index.html .

I’d be interested to know what people think about it and if it displays okay on your phone too.

Thanks.

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Random Information Generated By a QR Code

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I attended another great Mashed Libraries event in Huddersfield on Friday. (I’ll write a proper blog post about it later). As part of the event we were asked to bring/create our own name badges. So I decided to create one around a QR code, as one of the themes of the day was QR codes. This is it…

My QR Code badge for the Mashed Libraries Huddersfield event.

QR codes are basically barcodes displayed in a 2D square and when scanned with a QR code reader (often a piece of software in a mobile phone) you are taken to a web page. They are normally used in the physical/real world to connect to information on a web page. ie You can put a QR code anywhere you like – on a desert island and as long as you had an internet connection it would link to a web page when scanned.

I wanted to do something a bit different with my QR code, rather than it just linking to a static web page. So, using Runbasic I created a very basic webpage that displayed random information/misinformation about me when the QR code on the badge is scanned. If you scan the QR code above a few times you’ll see that the information in the last line changes. If you don’t have a QR scanner type in http://ggtestspace.weebly.com/randomgaryfact.html a few times to see what happens. There’s about 5 different pieces of information.

It was a daft and simple idea (that was the intention), but I wonder if a serious idea could be built on this. For example, could you put a QR code near a subject area in a library, or an exhibit in a museum, or a historic landmark and every time someone scans that QR code it gives you different/random facts about the subject area/exhibit/landmark, as a taster, rather than bombarding you with lots of information? If you wanted to find out more information about that subject/exhibit/ landmark, you could then follow a link on the webpage to more information.

The great thing as well about my badge is that I won a prize for it (one of the top six), which I really didn’t expect. 🙂 This is it… A bottle of Blandford Fly beer – It’s one of my favourites!

Blandford Fly beer bottle