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Quick wins for mobile technologies at the University of Surrey Library

By Claire Gill and Claire Gravely, University of Surrey | Aug 27, 2013

At the University of Surrey Library we have been investigating ways to improve support for the increased use of smartphones and tablets by our users. Statistics have shown a 113 percent increase in mobile traffic to our website, and we have started receiving queries about mobile devices and library resources.

We conducted a poll and two focus groups with students to determine their requirements regarding mobile technologies. They indicated that they want easy access to relevant information and that they do not distinguish between library information and other university information. The focus groups favored an app, while the poll showed equal support for an app or mobile-friendly web pages.

Because we do not have the resources to create an app, we have concentrated on goals we can achieve quickly and with little outlay of time or resources.

One of the first things we did was begin using QR codes. Creating QR codes is very easy, thanks to numerous free sites. We investigated several sites before deciding to use Bitly to create QR codes linking to web pages, as this gives us statistics as well as a useful short URL. For other QR codes, we use the QR Code Generator from the ZXing Project.

We currently use QR codes on posters, electronic displays, and help sheets. The codes link to more information or contact information for our academic liaison librarians. Though statistics show that QR code usage is not high, the codes require only minimal effort to set up.

We have also set up a mobile version of our library catalog, which involved changing a setting in our administration console — another quick and easy change for something identified as important in our focus groups.

We have created mobile-friendly versions of our web pages that show hours of operation and how to book rooms. Any future developments will start from a mobile-friendly base. We have also been investigating what is already available to students in the form of apps from resources we subscribe to, and will create a web page to promote the most useful ones to students.

Our approach has been to tackle what we can achieve with the resources at hand. If the day comes when we can improve upon these efforts, we will have already made strides in the right direction.