UCSD Libraries Go Mobile With New Site

While owning a smartphone may prove distracting during lecture, UCSD students now have no excuse to avoid doing research. The libraries recently released mobile version of their website.

The new site allows any owner of a high-tech mobile phone to navigate library resources and information through faster-loading websites better suited for a mobile device.

The website, which can be reached at www.libraries.ucsd.edu, will automatically direct the user to a more streamlined version of the library website when accessed on any mobile device with a browser.

Although the speed of the mobile website is weaker than that of a computer browser, the mobile website is dependent on the carrier of the mobile device and the strength of the connection.

The front page of the mobile site contains six clearly visible icons users can choose.

Once a user clicks one of the icons, the website directs to a page with information organized in a simple list format.

Using this mobile site, smartphone users can look up hours for all-campus librarians and access tools ranging from indexes and archives to periodicals for every area of study.

Other features include maps and directions to each library and contacts specializing in the category of the request (i.e. by subject area of a research topic or by library).

The website also features the “Ask a Librarian” service, through which students can directly communicate with a UC librarian about research or library-related inquiries through chat, text message or a phone call.

While this information is already available on the computer browser, users may appreciate that the design of the mobile site allows pages to load much faster than the computer browser version, which may be sluggish when accessed on a phone.

The site was developed by User Services Technical Analyst Dan Suchy and Web Technical Manager Matt Critchlow.

They observed a need for students to access the UCSD Library resources via mobile phone and developed the project idea in January and February of 2010.

Suchy and Critchlow decided to create this project because of the high volume of traffic the library website experiences on a daily basis.

More than 7,300 people visit one of the university’s nine libraries and the website receives more than 87,500 hits.

“We knew that the mobile site was needed a long time ago because most students on campus do have a smartphone … and the mobile site is accessible through any device with a browser,” Suchy said.

It was this ubiquity of smartphones at UCSD that tuned Suchy and Critchlow into the demand for a convenient virtual bridge between the libraries and a product that the majority of students already use in their day-to-day life.

“We noticed that [students have] an increasing standard for this technology, because most on campus constantly have a mobile phone in hand … so the project was about plugging into their lifestyle,” Critchlow said.

Critchlow and his team created the coding for the website. The site, which took approximately two months to construct, was presented to staff in August and made public on Sept. 22.

The website used in-house library staff and resources for funding and did not require outside contributions.

“We definitely had ‘streamlined’ in mind for the design,” Suchy said. “We did a bit of research, [and adapted into the site] what we knew other universities had to offer, and integrated the information we felt most users would desire, such as library hours and research tools [i.e. article databases for a variety of studies].”

Although Suchy and Critchlow have received mostly positive feedback from the colleagues since the official release of the mobile site, they are planning to assess it in greater detail this coming spring by evaluating students’ reactions to the program.

They also welcome student feedback via a link in the mobile site (under the “contacts” icon) and hope to integrate the site with the existing UCSD mobile website and application for iPhone and Blackberry.

Suchy and Critchlow also emphasize that a library catalog is currently under construction on the mobile site, and will be debuting later this fall.

The catalog will condense the UCSD Libraries’ resources and services and will allow users to find and request library items by subject title, author title or keyword.

“Obviously nothing will replace actually going to a library and talking to a librarian,” Critchlow said. “But the mobile app and ‘Ask a Librarian’ simply offer users different venues through which the UCSD librarians can be accessed.”

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