PubMed Advanced Search Changes and MyNCBI Enhancements.

The January 26, 2010 Technical Bulletin has some information about MyNCBI Enhancements as well as Advanced Search and Limits.

  • Coming in early February Advanced Search page will be streamlined (see TechBull for pictures)
    • Clipboard link will be added to the homepage
    • A new Limits page with additional limits for dates and search field tags will be added
  • Something called Search Builder will help users search using Boolean operators.
  • On the Advanced Search Page, Search Builder will replace the Search by Author, Journal, Publication Date, and more and Index of Fields and Field Values sections.  (I will try and keep an open mind, but I don’t think I am going to like Search Builder. It looks like it is another dumbing down of the system.)
  • My Bibliography users can now download their citations in MEDLINE format which is very important for your reference manager programs.
  • NCBI users can turn off the “Search Details” on PubMed search result pages.  (Does this mean search details is staying?!) NCBI users will be able to turn off the search details feature in mid February, although why somebody would do that when that is one of the better features for savvy searchers is beyond me.  But then again as a regular medical librarian some of the things they NCBI does with PubMed confounds me. 

Personally one of the biggest enhancements NCBI could do is stop calling saved searches MyNCBI.  They keep dumbing down the system for the “average” user but they fail to make some of the obvious changes like changing confusing wording like MyNCBI that normal people would not know means saved searches.

Calling All Volunteers: Chapter Council Roundtables MLA 2010

Are you going to MLA 2010 in Washington DC?  If you are then you might considered becoming a facilitator or recorder for Chapter Council Roundtable. 

They are looking for volunteers to share ideas, experiences and skills as a facilitator or recorder for the Roundtables on Tuesday May 25, 2010 from 11:30-1:30.  BTW if you sign up for the Roundtables you get lunch along with the chance to talk to other librarians interested in the same thing you are. 

You don’t have to have prior experience in a topic to be a facilitator or recorder.  You just have to have some enthusiasm and interest in sharing it with others. 

Facilitators initiate discussion and encourage participation from those seated at the table.  Recorders document the discussion which will be posted on the Chapter Council website.  Facilitators earn one AHIP point for completing these activities.  Where else can you get AHIP points for eating lunch and discussing library stuff. 

If you are interested in volunteering as a Facilitator or Recorder please email Angela Dixon at angela_dixon(atsign)urmc(dott)rochester(dott)edu.

Friday Fun: The BookBook

What better way for a Mac toting librarian to protect their laptop than the BookBook.  The BookBook is a laptop case cleverly designed and disquised as an antique, distressed, leather-bound book. 

Outside look of BookBook carrying case.
Outside look of BookBook carrying case.

It comes in two colors, red and black and in 13″ and 15″ sizes.  According to the TwelveSouth website, the “rigid leather hardback covers for a solid level of impact absorbing protection. The rigid spine serves as crush protection for an additional line of defense. BookBook creates a hardback book structure that safeguards your MacBook like few other cases.”  The zippers for the case look like little leather bookmarks.

MacBook inside BookBook case.
MacBook inside BookBook case.
I think the case is a little pricey at $79.99 but then again when you compare with others at, it is pretty much right in the middle of things. 

Library in Your Pocket: Educause webinar

For those of you who missed the EDUCAUSE webinar “Library in Your Pocket: Strategies and Techniques for Developing Successful Mobile Services.” you will be happy to know that is freely available in their archive at

One criticism I have is that the webinar seemed to focus on academic libraries that have the resources (programming people) to be able to do these things.  There wasn’t anything for the average librarian not in an academic setting, without programming people to help. 

It was interesting webinar.  Here are some of the things they talked about:

  • Determine what you want to mobilize from your webpage, not everything on your main webpage shouldn’t be on your mobile site.
  • Have a mobile redirect link on your traditional home page so mobile users can quickly find your mobile site.
  • Always link back to the traditional home page so if somebody wants to go beyond the mobile site they can.
  • Mobile just isn’t shrinking the page.  “It is mobilization NOT miniaturization.”
    • Catalog is good example (see slides)
      • Shows what items they kept and didn’t keep from the regular catalog webpage.
      • Got rid of advanced searching tools. Mobile catalog page only has three items, search box, drop down menu and available items only check box.
  • Long lists aren’t necessarily bad for mobile devices. (I disagree to a certain extent, long lists are annoying.)
  • Some things buried on traditional website might be popular on a mobile site.
    • Example: They NCSU Library has a coffee shop, they have a link to their webcam of the coffee shop for people to see how long the line is.  Very popular on the mobile, not on the traditional web.
  • Talk with users to get feedback on your mobile site.  Some of their thoughts might surprise you. They will tell you what is good, what needs improvement, what they want/need.
  • Create a device target strategy. In the medical world we call it triage.  What devices have high priority and what devices have low priority for development. 
    •  So in hospitals since Blackberrys are used heavily you might want to bump them into the top level and drop the Android to the mid or low level.
  • You really need to develop and modify content quickly (don’t hang on to something too long before you go live) because mobile devices change rapidly and best practices for providing content to these devices evolve constantly.
  • Have fun and be willing to experiment.  The NCSU coffee line cam was a fun idea that turned out to be extremely fun and valuable.
  • Use content in creative ways.
  • Collaboration is essential. 
    • Development with programmers, IT, etc.
    • Users with telling you what they like/need


Things that might be tricky for regular librarians:

  • It helps to have programming people.  People at NCSU libraries used their campus IT or programming people to help create the site.
  • The the mobile catalog is going to be tricky/difficult if your ILS doesn’t provide help, widgets, or add ons to make a mobile friendly website. The NCSU had an in-house thing to help deal with the catalog data and re-purpose it in mobile friendly way.
  • Be mindful of costs.  It can be done without any external costs, but there is always the cost of time. 
  • You must always be up for changing content.  You can’t develop/create a site and let it sit because the phones and best practices change so quickly. 
  • Right now it looks like creating a mobile site is going to be difficult for small libraries with 1-2 librarians and that don’t have an IT department or programmers (or have a good relationship with).

I think it is important for those libraries that have the opportunity to create a mobile web site to do it because the mobile web is getting more and more prevalent.  However, librarians with small libraries or hospital libraries that have restrictive development policies don’t need to worry.  While the mobile web is growing at a very fast pace, it still only represents 1.3 percent of all web page views.   So smaller libraries actually have a little bit of a time luxury, they can sit back and watch and learn from the everybody else.  Libraries in hospitals that have restrictive web development policies should sit back and evaluate their library resources and how those are mobile friendly.  Even if these librarians can’t control the look or function of their website, they might be able to add the mobile friendly links to library resources on the regular site.  For example they could have a link to the regular PubMed site listed and then just below that link have a link to the version.

LITA Top Technology Trends

Last Sunday in between putting up cabinet doors and breaking up out of control light saber fights,  I tried to sit down and listen to the live broadcast of LITA’s Top Technology Trends at ALA Midwinter.  The librarian Twitterverse was in the house tweeting about the broadcast and the speakers ideas.

It was interesting to hear what the other side of librarianship is doing.  I will do my best to sum it up. If any of you listened to the broadcast, were there, or if any of the panelists find any of this information incorrect, please let me know and I will correct it.  As I mentioned I was called away from the computer every so often.  -Sorry (Thank you Jason Griffey for correcting some of my attribution mistakes. I have made the corrections based off of his comments.)

David Walker was the first panelist and he spoke primarily about discovery systems.  Basically it is sort of like federated search but vamped up.  These systems take advantage of library collections and open them up to the users.  According to David their impact and emergence has been small and slow but that is due mainly to the economy.  But he sees discovery systems possibly replacing federated search. 

If the idea of a discovery system is a little confusing (due to my poor coverage of the meeting) and still sounds like federated searching here is an article I found about it in libraries,  The Evolution of Library Discovery Systems in the Web Environment.  Lorcan Dempsy also has a short blog post with links about them, Institutional Discovery Systems.

In David’s presentation and discussion, he wondered why there aren’t more library consortiums out there coming together to build discovery systems.  Personally, I think it is because there just aren’t enough librarians who do real programming to do this sort of stuff.  Many middle to large libraries have one systems librarian who has to balance the operations of the library with everything else techie.  Then you have a whole slew of middle to large libraries that are a part of a larger institution that doesn’t really justify/have/use/need(?) a programmer librarian because they have a giant IT department.  Finally you have the small libraries who often outsource a lot of their IT stuff and if they are lucky have somebody to do web pages.  Basically librarians as a whole are not a large group of people who do programming and coding as their basic jobs, whereas library vendors pay for programmers and coders who just build and maintain the stuff and they aren’t librarians.  Until libraries start hiring programmer not librarian programmers to specifically focus on creating products you aren’t going to have lots of consortias developing these type of things.

Amanda Etches Johnson talked about the user experience in libraries and online.  According to Amanda, user experience is not something we do well but is critical.  The user experience is not just whether somebody can find something but it is about how people feel when they are looking for something.  How they feel while they are looking often drives how they are looking. 

Amanda also talks about the mobile web and how it is totally different from the regular web.  However, people are seeking out mobile interfaces not just on mobile devices but also on regular computers because it is a stripped down fast website, and they want speed.  What we do for mobile devices will impact how we design for the web.  Somebody (don’t know if it was Amanda or audience) mentioned MEDLINE’s mobile service which launched last week was a good example of slimming down a full site to a mobile site. (Whoo hoo for the medical stuff getting in there as an example!)

Joe Murphy discussed the mobile web also, but he discussed SMS and the issues of apps.  According to Joe, SMS is the oldest and strongest of the mobile technologies and it is a good communication and research tool.  He said SMS for reference has really taken off. 

(Can anybody in the medical library world confirm if it has really taken off, because I haven’t hear much about it, but maybe I haven’t been listening.)

User expectations and mobile apps are changing.  Users expect and demand more from their apps.  I was sort of confused with Joe’s discussion (perhaps it was because I was distracted with a new round light saber death duels) but I got the impression that Joe was lamenting that there were only a few apps in the whole iPhone app store on or about libraries.  He mentioned OCLC’s WorldCat, LibraryThing, and somebody reminded him about NLM’s app but then he seemed to complain that libraries weren’t getting apps out and there weren’t any apps for libraries. 

If I heard correctly (which I may not have due sound of plastic light sabers colliding and eventually crying) then I have a real problem with Joe lamenting about the lack of library apps.  Apps are not where it is at for libraries and librarians, we don’t have the skills, the time, and money to create multi platform apps and maintain and upgrade them.  We should be looking at mobile friendly websites and HTML5 (presented by Jason Griffey later on).

Lauren Pressley spoke about augmented reality.  This has some seriously cool uses in libraries (including medical libraries).  Lauren used a great example to describe what augmented reality was.  Think of football, when the team is on the field there is a blue line on the TV indicating the line of scrimmage and a yellow line indicating the first down.  These lines aren’t physically on the field, but they are on your TV to help you enjoy and follow the game.  For another example of what augmented reality is go to 10 Amazing Augmented Reality iPhone Appsat Mashable and you will see how data can be overlaid on to the screen to making more (and different) information visible. 

Lauren mentioned the library at North Carolina State is working on an augmented reality app which links information about buildings and services to geographic coordinates on the campus.  I said augmented reality has some really neat potential in libraries, think of all the data that we have that is not necessarily easily found or together.  For example, somebody (Lauren or a audience member) mentioned an augmented reality app would be very helpful while browsing the library shelves. Why?  Well think of your electronic textbooks, they aren’t sitting on the shelves are they?  Do you have dummy books or are they just in the catalog waiting for somebody to search for them in the computer?  In our library, a great many patrons find books by browsing, never touching the catalog.  An augmented reality app might (in the future) be quite helpful.  Could we get by with dummy books? Maybe, but every time we get a new batch of electronic books (or one dies) we have to do more dummy books.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just upload that information from either our catalog or our A-Z list?

Of course augmented reality looks to have some very interesting applications in libraries, the issue of how are we going to create and maintain these things still rears its ugly head.  I don’t know of any easy way (like creating web pages) of creating augmented reality apps.  Heck mashups were the next “new” thing for libraries and so far that is still within the programming world and largely untouched in the library world. 

Jason Griffey announced that 2010 is the year the app will die.  Interesting a bold prediction since the “There’s an app for that” craze appears to be in full swing.  But Jason mentions HTML5 and CSS3 as the reasons why the app will face extinction.  HTML5 and CSS3 will include local storage, drag and drop functionality and have embedded audio and video. 

For more information about these two things and how they will impact mobile platforms look at MSN, Apps call, but will your phone answer? which discusses app fragmentation in the mobile market and how HTML5 will function on all mobile devices.

I completely agree with Joe. I find it interesting that one of the presenters really talked about library apps while the other said the app is dead. 

Finally the last bit of discussion centered around e-books.   Each panelist was given 3 minutes to give their .02 on e-books.  (This was like the rapid fire round for me, while I listened to what they had to say, it was hard to digest it all.)

Jason saw the future of e-books resting on platforms not devices.  He said that the e-book hardware is dying.  (Interesting since everybody and their grandma got a Kindle for Christmas.)  He said  Joe said there are group of users, him being one of them, that are singular universal device users.  They don’t want to carry around a separate reader device.  If he can’t get it on the iPhone he doesn’t want it.  I can see that. 

So if devices are dead, the growth is in platforms.  He Jason specifically mentioned,  Blio and Copia.  Copia is a platform for e-books that is intended to act as a “social reading experience.”  Readers can comment, discuss, pass on thoughts, stories, and other things to others who are also reading the same book.  I am not sure how Copia would do in special, academic or hospital libraries.  I see it totally rocking for public libraries and book clubs.   Blio (has an anatomy book on their front page) preserves the books original layout and graphics. Joe  Jason mentioned that Blio allows instructors to insert quizzes within the books so that after somebody has read a chapter they can get quizzed on the information.  (I do not see this anywhere on their site though.) Jason later said in the comments below he saw this feature demonstrated at CES2010. Totally cool, I think that stuff should be added to their website, because those are the kind of features that interest people and institutional buyers. 

Joe agreed that libraries should stay out of the hardware (I guess stop buying those Kindles) and look at content.  He said there is a shift from content ownership toward restrictive license agreements.  He said things are going more restrictive.  I don’t know if he meant this statement for all libraries or just public libraries, because it seems we medical librarians have been dealing with the whole ugly restrictive license agreement mess for quite some time.   

Amanda echoed the hardware issues that Jason and Joe mentioned, but from her perspective as a Canadian.  She said that she had her first Kindle sighting in Canada just a week ago. 

Last but not least David mentioned that e-books are not on the same level as e-journals.  There isn’t any parity.  E-journal usage is through the roof while e-books just putter along (my paraphrasing).  David wondered if e-books were as digitally accessible as journal articles whether that would change undergraduate research. 

So there you have it.  I know the meeting happened on Sunday, sorry it took me so long to get the report up for you all.  I was hoping that I could listen to it again and refresh my memory, but I can’t find a copy. 

If you are interested in reading more about what happened at the meeting you can go to for a synopsis, the LITA blog for the entire Twitter discussion (very confusing to follow if you didn’t listen to the program), American Libraries summary, and a nice bulletin summaryat lyndamk.

Mobile News for Librarians

Those of you interested in mobile technologies and libraries will be interested to know about MedlinePlus and a free webinar from EDUCAUSE on mobile services.

On the medical library and consumer health side of things NLM has released Mobile MedlinePlus ( Unfortunately you are going to have book mark or copy this URL because currently their server doesn’t recognize your phone to send you automatically to the mobile site.  If you happen to go the regular home page on your phone there is a link to the mobile version.

Mobile MedlinePlus is available in English and Spanish ( and includes a subset of content from the full Web site. When you go to the mobile site you will see options to browse for information within Health Topics and Drugs.  Clicking on one of those sections provides you with a search box as well as an A-Z list of topics.

It will be interesting to play with this more and see how it works for consumer health information.

From the regular library side of things, EDUCAUSE has announced there will be a FREE webinar, “Library in Your Pocket: Strategies and Techniques for Developing Successful Mobile Services.”  The webinar is Wednesday January 20, 2010 and is 1:00pm ET. 

David Woodbury and Jason Casden will discuss the need to be able connect to library users mobile devices to the library. 

Students are arriving on college campuses with the ability to connect to the web with a diverse array of mobile devices. However, some online services aren’t a good fit for the small screen, and new services can also be developed that take advantage of the mobile user context. Developers of the NCSU Libraries Mobile site [] will share their strategy and techniques for creating a suite of mobile services that are optimized for a majority of mobile web platforms, from iPhones to flip phones. The session will also include a discussion of site usage and promotion as well as plans for future mobile services.”

Registration is Free! Go to to register.

Free Class

Interested in knowing more about  Well you are in luck it because NN/LM liaison Dana Abbey will be presenting about it on Wednesday, Jan 27, 2010 at 1:00 MST, 2:00 CST. 

According the MidContinental Region News the class if free, registration is not required and if you take the class (and complete the exercises) you are eligible to receive 1 MLA CE credit. 

All you need to participate is a computer with Interenet and a phone.  For more information go to the MidContinental Region News post about the class.

Access Primal Pictures FREE: Ovid’s Database of the Month

Access Primal Pictures for free for the month of January 2010!

Primal Pictures is “most complete, detailed and accurate 3D model of human anatomy.”  In January 2010 you will be able to access it for free from the OvidSP platform.  This online anatomy reference provides a “comprehensive selection of dynamic, interactive modules featuring more than 6,500 highly accurate, three dimensional anatomy models. Models focus on individual organs, regions of the body, or anatomical systems.”

Plus it is really freaking cool (Krafty note)

Try it now at Ovid
Learn more about Primal Pictures from Ovid

Primal Pictures is very image heavy…well given the name that is what you would expect.  This trial gives you the opportunity to see how the OvidSP platform handles Primal Pictures and determine whether it is something that would work for your library users. 

Who Is Reading Your E-Books?

Who is reading your library’s ebooks? According to Dan D’Agostino, nobody. Yikes! 

In his post, The strange case of academic libraries and e-books nobody reads, “Instead of focusing on books downloadable to e-readers or smart phones, academic libraries have created enormous databases of e-books that students and faculty members can be read only on computer screens. The result, as shown by studies like the JISC national ebooks observatory project, is that these collections are used almost exclusively for searching for information—scanning rather than reading.”

Dan goes on to wonder if academic libraries will find themselves and their e-book collections obsolete because students and faculty are bypassing them.  He says academic libraries are in this potentially damaging situation due to publishing monopolies (his First Law of the Scholarly Publishing Universe), aggregated collections (his Second Law), as symbiotic relationship libraries and digital publishers, and finally the emergence of e-readers and mobile devices.

I am not sure I agree with the reasons he gives for the a problem.  I think these things are more noticeable in academic libraries that must collect resources in multiple subjects and disciplines.  Medical libraries have a certain luxury in that our entire collection is one general discipline, medicine.  Sure we have subtopics like nursing, cardiology, obstetrics, pediatrics, etc. but at least our entire collection can relate to each other and have a common thread.  It isn’t like we are collecting poly sci, engineering, theology, and business resources together.

When I look at e-books and the way the libraries I have worked for have purchased them, I see a perhaps different rational than how many academic librarians may have purchased theirs.  Or at least the way I see Dan describe how academic libraries purchase ebooks.  In the medical libraries I have worked in we have really only purchased online books that we have on reserve.  Books like Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, Danforth’s Obstetrics, Mandell’s Infectious Disease, etc.  Our users refer to these texts when they need to look up something or answer a question. 

Our users were consulting these texts just like the studies Dan refers to that indicate readers will not read extended pieces of text on computer screens and would use e-book collections simply for searching, not reading.  Well duh.  That is what they do with e-journal articles too.  But the thing to note is that our people also did similar things with print reference books.  The printed version of these books are generally large heavy textbooks that people consult, but rarely read straight through.  In the old days (pre online books) people took the book to the copy room and copied the chapter or tid bit of information.  How is printing the chapter of an ebook different from copying it from the bound version?  To me both versions represent similar library use, the technology differs.

We also use the digital version of these textbooks as a method to provide access to core library materials to users when we are closed and when the user is off campus (and physically cannot come to the library to read or photocopy the chapter).  Hospital and medical libraries have a lot of virtual users.  Some of these users are half way across town in their office practice, while others are closer but find it easier to use the library online.

Our ebook statistics continue to rise.  In the libraries I have worked for, our ebook usage stats were never close to our ejournal usage stats.  However, I would guess that in the print days there were more people photocopying  journal articles than chapters too.

Bundling is the nature of the beast.  (I am not saying it is right or wrong) but there if you are complaining about the bundling of ebooks, the bundling of ejournals is just as ugly.  Yet I would venture to say that your ugly ejournal bundle is probably getting better usage stats than your ebooks package, because it follows the pattern of how books and journals are read and used. Dan is right, people do not read books on big computer screen.  They will browse and print out chapters or sections but they won’t sit down and read.  So why on earth why would you actively buy a large collection of ebooks that are not reference type books? 

Which brings me to e-readers and mobile devices.  I have no earthly idea if these will take off in the medical world.  Right now there aren’t a lot of titles (compared to the titles that a public library or academic library would collect) for medical libraries.  Pocket guides, USMLE books and smaller (less textbook-ish) medical books that people often check out to read might do well in Kindle or mobile format.  It would be interesting to see if people treat ebooks that are reference and ejournals similarly on the e-readers as the pocket guide or “readable” books. Or will people will people look for a way to ‘print them out,” like they do now. 

Keep your expectations with ebooks in line with reality both in usage patterns and overall usage statistics.  Watch your usage statistics, keep your eyes and ears open for what is working and what isn’t.  Just like with bound books, your reference collection and your circulating collections are going to be used differently.

Stop the App Madness

The mobile web is growing big time.  If you don’t believe me then take a look at Resource Shelf blog post  referring to the 2009 Mobile Web Trend Report  from QuantCast. Mobile web consumption grew 110% in North America and 148% worldwide in 2009. While these growth numbers are huge, they still only represent 1.3 percent of all web pageviews. 

So everybody needs to settle down just a bit and breathe.  Yes the mobile web has grown tremendously and I am willing to bet (along with QuantCast 2010 sneak peak) that the mobile web will continue to grow.  Once we just had the Blackberry and iPhone as our major mobile web movers and shakers, but now Google has gotten into the fight as well as a whole boat load of cell phone makers. 

What should librarians and library vendors do about this?! 

First, resist all temptation, however strong, to run out and create an app.  Just don’t do it.  There are many, many, many things you and your people need to be doing and considering before you start down the app path.

The app path looks all pretty and inviting but you are seeing it through tech colored glasses that sometimes forget to show you that you will need to make more than just one app to reach your users.  At best you will need to create at least two apps (iPhone and Blackberry) to hit the majority of users.  But according to the Quantcast report, Motorola’s Droid, HTC’s Eris, and Palm Pixi were some of the most popular mobile gifts given this Christmas season. Don’t forget Google’s phone was just unveiled.  So if these platforms continue in popularity you now are faced with possibly creating apps for even more platforms.

Creating the app is just one problem.  Even if you decide that is completely impossible to make an app for every platform and you decide to just make two (iPhone and Blackberry -two most popular platforms right now), how are you and your company or library going to support, maintain, and upgrade the apps? Don’t create an app and just leave it. You must improve upon it.

Second, focus on your website.  I know it may sound silly that I mention this because lots of people are accessing the web from phones and every body’s instinct is to “have an app for that.”  But the most effective way to reach ALL of your mobile users is to create a mobile friendly website.  If your website is mobile friendly then you don’t have to worry how many of your users have iPhones, Blackberrys, Androids, Pixis, or whatever the next trendy sparkly new device, THEY ALL CAN USE YOUR CONTENT if your website is mobile friendly. 

Creating a mobile friendly website is the biggest bang for your buck.  It doesn’t require as much programming knowledge as an app and you are able to target way more people more effectively rather than constantly creating different apps.  Additionally you should set your mobile website up to feed you the usage stats.  People on mobile phones use the web differently.  Not only do we use non-mobile friendly sites differently on our phones but we use mobile friendly sites differently too.  What I am trying to say is that people who access a website from a computer usually are doing it for different reasons or looking for different things than people who are on their phones.  Therefore, even if you plan out your mobile website, it stands to reason your first version will have some different usage statistics than your traditional website.  Don’t just sit there with that information, use it and re-design your mobile website based on your usage stats to help satisfy your users’ needs. 

Once you have created a mobile website, looked at the usage statistics, redesign and tweak the mobile site, then you may start to consider creating an app.  But don’t just create an app to have an app.  There are so many lame and crummy apps from good companies (and not good companies) lying around in app land that  it is a bit like looking for survivors in zombie movie.  There are tons of lifeless and useless apps wandering the country side waiting to latch on to you. 

I feel apps are the new blog.  Way back when, blogs were the “in” thing to have.  Everybody wanted one for the website but nobody realized how much effort it took to create a good one and maintain it.  So you had a ton of blogs rotting away in the Internet wasteland.  There are so many apps out there for my iPhone that if an app is not as good or better than the traditional (or God willing) mobile website, I don’t bother with it.  I have app-athy and so do many other mobile users.

For example, there is thread on Web4Lib about a new app from LibraryThing called LocalBooks.  Because I have an iPhone and I am a librarian I was excited at first to read about the app.  I was also excited to see that it was rated 5 stars.  I downloaded the app and tried it out.  I have used LibraryThing on the web so I was expecting the app to do what the website does AND then some.  Wow I was disappointed with the app.  The app is called LocalBooks, you would think that it at least lets you do what you normally do on the LibraryThing website and find books locally (or anywhere). Nope.  All you can do is find bookstores and libraries in your area and search for events matching your topic.  Basically it AroundMe (another free popular iPhone app) with an event search.

So I typed in Twilight (which is all the rage right now and sure to have events somewhere).  The nearest “twilight” event to me (in Cleveland) was the Barrett Wharton public library branch (250 miles away in Barrett, WV) and when I tap on it, no upcoming events are listed.  Now how on earth did it find the Barrett Public library was having a “twilight” event if no events are listed? 

It does only a fair job of finding bookstores or libraries near me.  I decided to search for bookstores and libraries near me (while at a library). It failed to find Mathews Medical Books which according to AroundMe is 416 yards away and it listed the library that I was sitting in as being 3.19 miles away (AroundMe listed my library 419 yds away).  AroundMe was slightly off but LocalBooks couldn’t find a national bookstore and was way off on library location, if you are in a city (which I am) there are a lot of things packed into 3.19 miles. 

During the Web4Lib discussion Roy Tennant with OCLC Research mentioned that WorldCat has an app that will find books.  The WorldCat Mobile app is a sad neutered version of the traditional website.  I searched for Hurst’s the Heart.  Despite typing exactly the same thing, the iPhone app shows different results than the traditional website.  For example, the STATRef version shows up on the mobile app version and doesn’t show up on the website version.  WHY?!  That wasn’t the only oddity.  In the web version when I click on the link to the holding library I am immediately sent to the library’s catalog record for that book.  This does not happen in the mobile app version.  My guess would be because the app can’t handle the multiple ILS platforms out there.  Additionally I can’t request books to be delivered to my library using the mobile app which I can through the website.  These two things are the most powerful parts to WorldCat, therefore why would a I bother with the mobile app when traditional library site is the most functional?!  So why make an app that is wimpier and less productive than your website?!

Here you have two very popular traditional library type websites that decided to jump into the app world, yet neither of them have mobile friendly websites!  I use their websites quite often but I deleted their apps after only a day.  It is not my intention to pick on LibraryThing or WorldCat.  I think they are just two of the many out there who got sucked into the app hype and decided to make an app.  There are tons of medical apps out there that aren’t worth a darn either.  

There are so many junk apps out there I will rarely if ever pay for an app.  (I got a $20 iTunes gift card last year for Christmas, and I still have $8 on my account. I bought mostly songs.)  I won’t pay for any app unless it has at least 4 stars and I have read the reviews, even then I won’t pay above $1.99.

Medical and hospital libraries and library vendors (database, book, and journal companies) please think before you app.

***Update Jan. 10, 2010***

Just read an article on MSN, Apps call, but will your phone answer?  where they discuss the issue of an extremely diverse and fragmented mobile phone market that is hurting the app market.  I mentioned in my post that if you want to reach people through apps, you are going to have to design different apps for different phones.  It turns out I was overly simplistic with this statement.  Depending on the phone and its operating system, one app designed for a specific brand of phone like the Android, may not work on new Android models with newer operating systems. 

The app market is ugly and really not where librarians or librarian vendors need to be hanging out until some standardization happens.  The good news is that there is already some standardization happening in web development.  As the article mentions HTML5 will begin to make it easier to have robust mobile friendly websites that are platform independent and work on all phones.  But that doesn’t change the fact that people still will use the web differently on the phone vs. the computer, so you need to look at your usage statistics and your users and design something that works best on the mobile.  Just because HTML5 will allow you to create a more robust mobile website doesn’t mean that you should always design it that way.  Sometimes less is more, especially to those of us on 4 inch screens.