Mobile Library Catalogs

Continuing my recent mobile trend I thought I’d look at some library catalogs that offer mobile interfaces. here’s a collection of screen shots of a few library catalogs that offer mobile interfaces (as seen on the iphone).

Click the images below or just go to my flickr Library Catalog Mobile Interfaces set

University of Virginia Libraries

VIRGO Catalog
UVa Library - Virgo Catalog (top of screen)UVa Library - Virgo Catalog - search results for keyword=usability (scrolled down)UVa Library - Virgo Catalog - item record (scrolled down)

UVa uses the Usablenet Transcoder service. The service is a “server-based tool that generates a customizable “text-only” view of your content, instantly…[to] display your current content in the best possible textual format to be accessed by disabled visitors and PDAs and cell phones users.” Unfortunately, I don’t think that mobile needs and accessibility needs are identical. Every page contains full site navigation which requires the mobile user to scroll down 2-3 screen lengths every time a new page loads before they can get to the content. Also problematic is that the search results page doesn’t include the item title (!) and the item record view is unnecessarily cluttered with tons of information. The transcoder site says it’s customizable so maybe with some more effort this could be a viable technique.

University of Richmond Libraries

UR LibMobile: Catalog
U Richmond Library - Catalog SearchU Richmond Library - Catalog Search ResultsU Richmond Library - Catalog - Item Record

Richmond also uses a service that creates the mobile interface: Google mobile optimizer but this one works much better than Usablenet transcoder. I appreciate that the buttons and fields are big enough to easily click without zooming. The search results gives all the most important bits of information including availability and location. The main negative is that it unnecessarily retains a lot of the extra functionality of the regular catalog (like refining searches, saving to bookbag, etc) that makes scanning more difficult. These features might be nice to have via a mobile device, but they are definitely nonessential and would need to be redesigned and incorporated into the mobile environment.

Ball State
Ball State Library Catalog - SearchBall State Library Catalog - Search ResultsBall State Library Catalog - Search Results

The search page is good because it just offers a few basic search options. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be working very well because I tried many searches (usability, web, science, engineering) and none of them produced any results. Finally, a search for keyword=english produced many results. Unfortunately (again), there is no search results list and you have to scroll through each item one by one. Even if the search was performing correctly, you’d be lucky if the item you wanted was in the first 10 results!

Nashville Public Library
Nashville Public Library catalog - searchNashville Public Library catalog - search resultsNashville Public Library catalog - item record
Nashville Public Library uses airpac (from Innovative Interfaces). This seems to be a popular option because I found that quite a few other libraries use it as well.

The search interface is nice and simple. The search results page is almost too simple and only gives very limited information (title & year). Overall, not too many complaints for this one… it’s just a little lackluster.

NCSU Libraries
NCSU catalog - searchNCSU catalog - search resultsNCSU catalog - item record

MobiLIB is NCSU’s home grown mobile application and is (not too surprisingly) the best of the bunch. It’s obvious that they’ve put a good deal of thought and time into their product. The search is simple and I especially appreciate the option to restrict to items currently available because if you’re standing in the stacks looking something up on your phone, your likely to only want things currently available! The search results page is also very nice in that the items are formatted to aid reading and scanning and it gives the most important information (title, location, availability, and call number). Unlike the other interfaces, the only time I had to zoom in to read the text was on the item record page because of the item’s long title.

2 Comments so far

  1. Paul R. Pival on April 23rd, 2009

    Hi Suzanne, wanted to make sure you were aware of the M-Libraries page on the LibSuccess wiki at and encourage you to contribute. I’ve just linked to your screenshots of these interfaces (hope that’s ok) :-)

  2. [...] And here is a whole collection of different library websites and how they look on an iPhone/iPod [...]

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