Monday, 3 May 2010

library widget goes mobile

One of our project objectives was to take what we had learned when designing the original library widget - particularly about providing useful services in limited space - and apply it to mobile interfaces.

Today sees the Beta launch of CamLib - basically the library widget for mobile devices, with extra bells and whistles. Available here:

Test login (for library card) is:

Barcode: VABCD
Surname: Bloggs

[do have a look around, try out the bookbag etc., but please don't use the request functionality if you can help it - not fatal, but will save some confusion at our end!]

It's been tested for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices - though not exhaustively, so please comment on this post and let us know if it's misbehaving.

We used jQTouch, a jQuery library for mobile development, which lets you write web interfaces which behave (to a certain extent) like native apps. There is a big debate in library circles about native apps vs web interfaces ... we decided on a middle path to get the best of both worlds.

We did some hard thinking about what people would want from a library mobile device, and apart from all the usual renewing/requesting/searching activities, we plumped for bookbag functionality - essentially the ability build up a list of items to look at later.

Viewing content on a smartphone is possible but awkward. And nobody wants to be finding books on their phone and then writing down classmarks on a piece of paper. The bookbag lets you build up a list of items as you search and then email it to yourself or others.

There's plenty of other functionality to explore, including links out to full text, Google Books, maps, floorplans etc.

For items in libraries other than the University Library (which locates onto a floorplan), the link to Google Maps will even use your phone's location system and tell you how long it will take you to walk/drive/bus to the book in question (click on Directions). Playing with this functionality over the weekend produced the surprising titbit that it would take 1 day and 10 hours of solid walking to get from my Dad's house in Bromsgrove to the issue desk of the English Faculty Library in Cambridge - quite a challenge for even the most committed scholar!

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