OCLC is studying how to lead people back to libraries, and one of the places to find many users is on mobile phones. So they put the entire WorldCat catalog on a mobile platform. OCLC has opened its mobile API to developers who have built access to WorldCat and other library services. By that simple act, millions of people have been given access to their library and can get books from it. Cindy Cunningham described the results as “WorldCat on steroids”, and said that this development has opened WorldCat to the the Millennium generation because of their very heavy usage of mobile phones. Speakers in this session described how it was done.
Greg Carpenter, CEO of Boopsie (a mobile platform), said that squeezing a Web-based application on to a mobile phone does not work; in a study by Gomez, Inc., 75% of the users said that mobile browsers are too slow, and 50% said that many applications are rendered the wrong size for the display. Boopsie has developed mobile-friendly web sites for libraries, which has capabilities such as reading lists and links to the OPAC so that users can use their mobile phones to find a book, then connect to the OPAC to put it on hold.
Bruce Washburn, OCLC California Office, wanted to search WorldCat on his iPhone, so he built a browser application to do that and test the WorldCat API. He also built an application based on the CompareEverywhere application built by Jeff Sharkey, now at Google, which uses the WorldCat API to scan book barcodes and show where they are available in nearby libraries. Just this one application increased the use of the WorldCat API by a factor of 10.
A library on your mobile phone? Yes, indeed, and the future of these applications is bright.
Columnist, Information Today, and IL 2009 Blog Coordinator