Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Amazoogle Fail?

The May 2009 issue of Computers in Libraries has a really interesting article called "OPACs and the Mobile Revolution."

The author, Samuel Liston, looked at how catalog interfaces from SirsiDynix, Innovative Interfaces, and AquaBrowser display in various kinds of mobile devices. He tested a Crackberry Blackberry, a Windows Mobile device, and an iPhone.

The test in each was:
1. Does the library own a specific book? (Search from the library's main page)
2. Does the library have a current copy available? (Look at the results page)
3. What is the call no. of the copy? (Look at a full-record view for the title in question)

My short (and snarky) summary of this article is two-fold:
1. iPhones do the best job of displaying at each step in the test.
2. If your users don't have iPhones, they're screwed.

I'm no code whiz, but I know that there is a difference between how a full website views on a mobile device and how 'mobile versions' of a site display. I know this because I can use my Windows Mobile-driven phone to check in for flights on Southwest's mobile site, but you couldn't pay me enough to load the full version on my phone.

I'm guessing, based on the article, that the catalog interfaces in question either don't have mobile versions or the mobile versions weren't tested.

The article concludes by showing how awesomely Amazon's website displays on each kind of mobile device.

(Cue the record scratch)

If libraries want catalogs that navigate more like Amazon (and wasn't that the impetus behind NextGen catalogs?), shouldn't we have followed Amazon's lead and looked at the mobile device-aspect of this equation? It seems like users don't want to be tethered to their laptops and they certainly don't want to be tethered to the machines in our libraries. Theoretically, users want to access our resources from their phones. And, according to this article, they can--but they can only do it reliably if they have an iPhone.

It seems like over and over again, libraries have excellent intentions when it comes to implementing "Web 2.0" ideas in a library setting. And it also seems like over and over again, libraries just barely miss the mark.

I haven't done any kind of research of my own beyond the article, so I'd love to be pointed in the directions of some awesome mobile catalog interfaces. I'm sure they're out there! Prove me wrong, library-land!