A recent online symposium, The Future is Mobile, asks if libraries are ready to reach mobile users with smart phones. Speaker Mike Teets, OCLC VP of Innovation, suggested that mobile services are not just for fun, but are critical to the “long-term existence of libraries and librairanship.”
What will the next generation of 4G cellular network make possible? 4G technology will boost the speed available to mobile users and cut down on lag-time in terms of sending data packets off and on servers. This means that video chat, video voice mail and real-time media sharing are feasible. The question for libraries will be what will be the computer of the future? Will it be the mobile smart phone?
Smart phones have the potential to change how people interact with the world around them. For example, as phones become more integrated into daily tasks it will be increasingly important to have metadata that is discoverable and can be linked to the objects the phone is interacting with. Is this data-rich world really that far away? Consider some current apps that hint at greater possibilities. Fro example, Google Goggles interprets visual information through the phone’s camera and adds context via the web by recognizing logos, book covers, and other things. TagWhat is an app that allows people to add notes to location-specific tags, while CabSense aggregates pickup and drop off data to predict the best place to catch cabs.
What will be the role of librarians and libraries? Will they be replaced? I certainly don’t think so, but librarians should be aware of the trends, and shape mobile library services because this isn’t off in the far distant future. It’s here now.