5 Ways Library Mobile Apps Make Life Easier for Everyone
In recent decades, technology has vastly changed the landscape of the library. The introduction of the Internet allowed libraries to say goodbye to clunky cabinets full of index cards and hello to snazzy new search engine-style interfaces that quickly connect patrons with their resources of interest.
Now that we’ve migrated from desktop devices to smartphones and tablets, the next era of library content discovery is here — library mobile apps. These apps do all that your online catalog can do — plus a whole lot more! Not only does an app make it easier than ever for library staff to target resource and event promotion, but it streamlines access to patron accounts, branch information and content as well. Read on for five of the many ways that a library mobile app makes life easier for patrons and staff alike.
1. Accessing Patron Accounts Takes Just a Few Taps
From checking on holds to reviewing due dates on checked-out items, library account management can easily become overwhelming for patrons. This is especially true if the only way to access patron account information is by talking to a librarian during normal branch hours, visiting a library’s website or accessing an ILS app that may offer a less-than-ideal, ’90s-style user interface.
By offering a custom mobile app, you can centralize relevant account information like holds, fines and due dates and provide intuitive navigation to so much more. Some of those items include family account management, book bar code scanning, upcoming events and event history, featured book lists, patron “favorites” lists, better search functionality and quick access to other library services. Not only will you reduce frustrations for those who do not have time or a way to access your website, but you can also promote a more positive user experience by helping patrons avoid punitive fines and eliminating the need to carry around a physical library card (use the app for that). The more positive interactions your patrons have with your library, the better they’ll feel about your role in their community.
2. Free, Local Events Are Much Easier to Discover (And Remember)
Your library likely invests a substantial amount of time and resources into planning and coordinating free events and programs. We know it can be frustrating when you don’t see the high level of attendance that you’re expecting at those programs. Still, many community members either aren’t aware of the range of events that your library offers or they sign up for an event and then forget to attend.
A mobile app is the perfect place to market your events and programs to an audience that is already regularly engaged with your library. Whether you show the library’s full calendar or include “ads” that promote specific events for key audiences (e.g., seniors, adults, kids, teens), a mobile app’s home screen provides valuable real estate for promoting library events to everyone. An app also streamlines registration and seamlessly integrates event reminders into smartphone calendars. Some can even send push notifications that remind registrants to attend events (or take advantage of any of your library’s other resources and services).
3. A Library Mobile App Is Always There and Ready to Serve
Take a minute to think about your smartphone habits. How many times have you Googled hours for local businesses or checked the weather forecast on your phone? Community members are likely using their phones in a similar way. If your library isn’t available where your community members already are, they may be less likely to use your services, especially since they have other options when it comes to reading the latest best-sellers or finding community events.
Your library’s app reminds patrons that your library is available and ready to serve their information needs anytime, anywhere. Even patrons who are too busy to make checking in with the library or stopping by a physical branch a regular habit will feel connected if your library has an attention-grabbing presence on their phones’ home screens.
4. Your Library’s Full Collection Is Within Reach Anywhere, Anytime
Your community members are busy. They’re looking for the quickest way possible to find and pick up their resource of interest from your library, whether that’s physical material like a DVD or digital content like an e-book. Since apps offer a way to search your library’s catalog from the convenience of their phones, patrons can save time by ensuring that the physical resources that they’re seeking are available before making the trip to your library.
You can even offer instant access to e-books, brain-training exercises like BrainHQ and other digital resources directly through your app or by linking users to partner apps like OverDrive and Hoopla. The easier it is for your users to find and access your content, the more likely they are to become return visitors.
5. Reference Services Are Available to Users Near and Far
Asking someone for help can feel intimidating, especially if you already feel out of your comfort zone. Some library patrons may not feel comfortable talking to librarians, or they may not approach the reference desk because they think they are bothering the librarians. Others, including those with disabilities, might prefer a more convenient way to get answers to their questions aside from talking face-to-face with a librarian. Still others, especially younger patrons, increasingly prefer real-time online chats to in-person interactions. Luckily, library apps often include a reference service component to help solve a lot of these issues.
The accessibility of an app allows individuals who might have otherwise refrained from asking for help to reach out to a librarian and get the information they need. With a direct connection to your library’s reference services on their mobile devices, your patrons can get the answers they need from anywhere. By supporting your community in this way, you can reinforce your library’s position as their best resource, no matter how your patrons seek out the information.
Mobile App Benefits Extend Beyond Just Patrons
Patrons expect your library’s resources and information to be easy to find, and offering an app can help you meet — or even exceed — these expectations. What may surprise you is that patrons aren’t the only ones who can benefit from your library offering a mobile app. An app can save staff time and simplify their workflows as well. When not addressing patron questions, your staff will have more time for developing partnerships with local organizations, proactively engaging with your community or developing attention-getting programs.
Now that you know a library app will help you streamline patron account access, promote events, share branch information, and expand the reach of your content and reference services, you may be wondering what your next step should be when it comes to offering such a one-stop shop. To help you, we’ve created a mobile app selection guide that will walk you through the right questions to ask during your mobile app selection process. Download the Guide to Selecting a Mobile App for Your Library here.