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Mobile thoughts: behind the scenes of the m.Library website

Log in to m.Library

With the launch of the Library’s blog, I want to reflect on events that marked the development of another “web-savvy” project. Almost a year ago, the Library released its test version of m.Library, the EP Library’s mobile website. This is our first venture to provide clients with information services targeted directly for their mobile devices. The pilot service gives real-time access to news bulletins from national and European news agencies, with up to 5000 articles daily. We are planning to develop more services soon, so watch this space for updates!

The m.Library website: delivering news on mobile

A screenshot of the m.Library website

A screenshot of the m.Library website

MEPs, assistants and EP staff are increasingly using mobile devices to access information. In particular, reading breaking news on mobile has become an urgent demand. So in March 2011 we launched a pilot project, to consider Library delivery of information in the mobile environment. My personal response, as soon-to-be-appointed project manager for Library mobile services, was finally getting round to buying a “real smartphone”. Only my third phone in 13 years, so it meant something!

We started with the Newswires service from our Library Intranet site. However thinking mobile made us redesign the service and its functionality. Keeping the same content, we designed a more simple and straightforward version for quick use on the go. So yes, we went for a website not an app… With limited resources, we wanted it to work on all devices, but mostly we had to submit to technical constraints set down by EP security standards. By the way, this is why you have to log in manually each time… Also, for copyright reasons you need to work for the Parliament to access m.Library.

After three months of development (thanks John!), a test phase and improvements, we launched the website on 20 October 2011. Now I must say that although many people tried our website, only a few used it regularly: these clients gave us interesting feedback, but we wanted more!

Going public with the m.Library Strasbourg Information Stand

So we held a 3-day information stand in Strasbourg during the April session. Its location above the Swan Bar next to the Passerelle proved an ideal spot: with over 150 visitors (about one every five minutes), the stand was a real success. In most cases we ended up showing clients how to set up the website on their phones. Making a demo on someone’s personal phone was sometimes a challenge: no, we librarians do not know every type of smartphone there is on the market… It was funny also to see that although QR codes seem almost ubiquitous to the mobile-conscious, not so many people know how to use them. The giant code on our poster intrigued more than one.

A most interesting benefit was that we learned a lot about the mobile culture of our clients. And so, guess what? Users prefer an app, do not enjoy the manual login, and want to save the website on their home screen. These improvised “usability sessions” were priceless in showing what works and what does not on our website: saving the user’s choice of agencies for example needs to be easier! On more general terms, while some visitors did not know that the Parliament had a Library, others who do know us observed that we are always in the lead for trying out new technologies. And yes, we try: we advertised the information stand live on the Library’s Facebook page, and you are now reading this on our blog!

Showing m.Library to a client

The Library Director supporting the m.Library manager

A mobile dimension in the “New Concept for the Library”

New elements give further impetus to mobile actions within the Library. The Bureau has required of the Library to develop its New Concept for delivering more value for Members, and stated that “the Library should undertake to make its contents available to Members via mobile devices and services”. Our team’s mission is now to deliver an increasing range of Library services to mobile, and adapt other Library services to take into account the mobile dimension.

Then in September (and on my birthday no less) I will present the m.Library project at the fourth International m-libraries Conference at the Open University in the UK. This will allow me to discuss similar projects with other information professionals, and come back with new ideas to develop our mobile strategy.

And now here are my questions to you. Are you reading news on your mobile device? Are you using Library information services? Take part in our 1-minute survey!

About Caroline Corneau

Information specialist, website manager responsible for online services at the Library of the European Parliament.

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