Keren Mills (Open University) has produced a report, M-Libraries, information use on the move, funded by the Arcadia Fund, which looks at the information needs of information users on the move. Staff and students at Open University and Cambridge University were surveyed, using a short online survey asking about current use of mobile information services like text alerts, SMS reference, and the mobile internet. In both libraries mobile services are very new.The data collected was used to suggest trends which indicate likely takeup if services were offered in other libraries.
27% said they had used an SMS Reference service and 26% more said they might if they had known about it.
Staff at ULC had noticed students taking piuctures of OPAC result screens rather than noting classmarks on paper and 50% at both libraries said they take photos of signs, books etc. to save for later reference. Also 55% were in favour of being able to access the OPAC by mobile phone.
The use of mobiles for reading an e-book, journal article was very low. The report notes that the iPhone is having an influence on use of the mobile web, but I suspect that the survey was done before this was having much impact. "Given the low percentage of iPhone owners in the UK and the proprietory, device-specific nature of iPhone applications, there seems to be little value currently in providing library applications.It would be more cost effective to either provide the same functionality throug a website, or develop applications in Java, which will run on most other mobile handsets."
Stephen Abram on Stephen's Lighthouse was very disappointed by the conclusion of the report concerning the "results suggest it is not worth libraries putting development resource into delivering content such as e-books and e-journals to mobile devices at present".
In fact I find the report rather negative, It shows how difficult it is to do an up to date survey in such a volatile area.Neither OU or ULC could be described as typical HE libraries. Other libraries who are wondering what to do about mobiles should look at this with interest, but form their own conclusions based on their own user population.