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Smartphones Replacing Old-Fashioned Library Cards

Checking a book out on a smartphone rather than at a counter is becoming a more common occurrence.

by / August 3, 2011
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Public libraries sometimes get a bad rap for not utilizing the latest technology, but in reality more of them are pushing their services onto smartphones. Checking a book out on a smartphone rather than at a counter is becoming a more common occurrence.

For example, the Catawba County, N.C., Library System recently began using an app, called LS2 Mobile, to give its registered patrons access to its catalog of available books and other media. The free app provides a searchable list of titles, and users can also renew items, place items on hold and check their account status.

“[Patrons] can then go and pick the item up at their library; they don’t have to pull it off the shelves themselves,” said Regina Reitzel, a Catawba County information services librarian. “They can also see how many books they have out.”

The app is available on the iPod Touch and iPhone, and soon is expected to be made available on Android and BlackBerry. The app’s features also can be accessed by logging on to the county library’s website.

Reitzel said it’s important for libraries to keep current on technology trends in order to support what citizens demand. Delivering library services on a smartphone is one example. Otherwise, libraries will die, she said.

Several community members had asked Catawba County to provide library services through mobile devices, so Reitzel approached The Library Corp., an Inwood, W.Va.-based library systems vendor, about developing an app. Coincidentally The Library Corp. already was creating an app that met Catawba County’s needs. The county library system then purchased it for $3,000.

Currently the county library system has 82,000 users, and Reitzel said the county expects to see a high usage rate of the app.

Catawba County is by no means the only local library system to see the importance of smartphones. Other systems, such as the Warren County, N.J., Library, have also released library services through the LS2 Mobile app.

Santa Clara County, Calif., provides library services via mobile devices through its SCCL Mobile tool. The tool allows patrons to locate libraries as well as find library hours of operation. Through a text message feature, patrons can receive library contact information through the tool’s Ask a Librarian feature.

In June, Los Angeles Public Library staff announced that its Silver Lake branch was the first public library to launch a smartphone app that provides a self-checkout feature. With the MyMobileLibrary app, patrons can securely check out items from anywhere within the library.

Some libraries are also supporting apps like CardStar and KeyRing, which allow a smartphone to store the bar-code data for a library card. In essence, the smartphone becomes the library card.

Video: A Boulder, Colo., public library explains how smartphones are supported. Source: Daily Camera Newspaper

Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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