There are now more mobile phone subscriptions than there are people in the United States, and U.S. citizens—particularly young people—have rising expectations for mobile services offered by both commercial businesses and public institutions, according to “The State of Mobile Connectivity,” a keynote address by Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, at the 7th Handheld Librarian online conference on Wednesday. Citing data from a Pew study released earlier this year, Rainie noted that 17 percent of U.S. consumers now use a mobile phone or smartphone as their primary or exclusive point of access to the internet. For young people, minority groups, and households earning less than $50,000 per year, the rate is significantly higher.
Library DVD borrowing has fallen sharply during the past year, and library users are rapidly migrating toward streaming services for both music and movies, according to the July 2012 edition of LJ’s Patron Profiles, which examines trends in Media Consumption and Library Use. DVDs are the top format for films loaned by libraries, and 27 percent of respondents said that libraries remain their primary source for movies—down from 36 percent in the first Patron Profiles survey, conducted less than a year ago. “A strong indicator of the changing media landscape is the rise of streaming and disc-by-mail services—both currently dominated by Netflix,” the report states.
Using cell phones to explore websites that are not optimized for mobile devices can be a frustrating experience. Libraries should consider this more than an aesthetic issue, since mobile devices are the primary Internet access point for a growing number of their users. Almost 90 percent of U.S. adults now own a cell phone of some kind, and 55 percent of them use their phones to go online, according to a June report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Seventeen percent of respondents said they do “most” of their online browsing on their phone.
The National Federation of the Blind has honored Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 digital media platform with the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award, which recognizes individuals and organizations that have “made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality.”
Connecticut’s Westport Public Library (WPL) officially launched its new Maker Space with a press conference this week. Contained within a large, open metal structure modeled after early airplane hangars, the new section of the library’s great hall features cutting edge tech gadgets such as a MakerBot 3D printer, and will host presentations and participatory workshops on topics ranging from robotics, to intellectual property rights for inventors, to arts and crafts. “It’s a national trend that you’re going to see sweeping the country, and you’re seeing here in one of the very first places ever,” said WPL director Maxine Bleiweis.
The Cleveland Public Library is working to make its main branch a destination for residents living, working, and visiting downtown, and TechCentral, the $1 million technology center that opened on June 14 featuring 90 desktop workstations, loanable iPads, Kindles, and other devices, cloud-computing services, a 70-inch “interactive tech wall,” and more, is a big first step.
Freegal has made it easier for library patrons to download their weekly allotment of MP3 files with the launch of new apps for Apple and Android devices, available for free at Apple’s iTunes store and at the the Google Play store. Similar to many ebook platforms, the app allows users to search for their library via zip code, and then enter their library card and PIN number to download music.
Baker & Taylor announced on May 22 that the latest release of its Axis 360 digital media platform includes accessibility functions that will allow visually-impaired patrons to use a library’s digital collections. The platform is now compatible with several leading assistive screen-reader technologies, including JAWS (Job Access with Speech), Window-Eyes, NVDA (non-visual desktop access) and System Access To Go.
In the not-so-distant future, communities could view their local libraries as the place to go when they want to publish their own ebook, create and edit their latest song or video, or even design and print out plastic tools, toys, and prototypes. A growing number of libraries already offer their patrons tools such as recording equipment and sound and video editing software. Now, some are beginning to house 3D printers. In fact, many libraries have begun viewing such services as a core part of their mission.