50 Useful iPhone Tips for Librarians and Researchers

Posted on 06.11.2008

Whether you love or loathe technology the reality is that it's going to play a big role in the future of libraries and educational facilities all over the world. Mobile technology has been at the center of a lot of discussion lately in research and library facilities, with schools like ACU choosing to distribute iPhones to new students for educational purposes. While the long term value of the iPhone as an educational tool is still up for debate, there are a number of ways librarians and researchers can begin using the technology to help them find information, catalogue their collections and much more. Here are a few ideas and tips to get you started on using the iPhone for more than just calls.

Helping Patrons

iPhones and other mobile devices can be a great way to help out and keep in touch with patrons.

  1. Give staff phones to keep in contact with each other and patrons. It can be easy to ask another staff member a question about materials or to quickly respond and reply to patron questions when library staff members have iPhones. Being constantly connected on a small wireless device means quicker turnarounds and better service overall.
  2. Creating a texting service for patron questions. Giving patrons the option of texting in their questions to the library can make it easy for those who prefer to avoid telephone conversations the ability to get quick and easy answers to simple questions, and if librarians within your library are using iPhones they can respond to questions in between checking in or shelving materials and other tasks.
  3. Create a webclip for your library. Make it easy for patrons to add an icon of your library to their favorites by creating a webclip. This guide will explain just how you go about doing it.
  4. Make it easy to use an iPhone within the library. Many libraries make it a point to ban mobile phone usage-- and with good reason-- but with new technology many patrons may want to take advantage of wi-fi or to use their iPhones for research while they're in the library. Make it possible for them to do so, so long as they do it quietly.
  5. Check how your site looks on an iPhone. Many sites don't quite translate well to mobile devices like the iPhone. Check how your library's webpage looks by using an online tool like iPhoney or by checking it yourself on an iPhone.
  6. Make RSS feeds. There are numerous ways for iPhone users to subscribe to RSS feeds on their phones so you can get library news and updates to them right away by creating a library RSS feed.
  7. Optimize your site for mobile devices. If you've checked out how your site looks on an iPhone and the result is not so great, consider creating a special page for mobile users to access your site. Many libraries are already doing so to maximize the usability of their webpages by patrons.
  8. Get set up on Facebook. Facebook is one application that is designed to work well on the iPhone and additionally is incredibly popular with high school and college students. Creating a library account on the site will allow users to ask questions and get information about the library every time they log on.
  9. Update patrons about the library. With so many ways to contact your patrons using an iPhone there's no reason not to give text, email or Twitter updates a try whether you're telling them the book they requested is in or that there is going to be a special event at the library.
  10. Give instant feedback. If you have a library staff that is carrying around iPhones as they do their work, it enables them to immediately respond to patron queries, whether they're on the phone, through email or by text. Even in person encounters can be speeded up with mobile access to the library's catalog and database.

For Librarians

Whether you're keeping in touch with the staff or sharing the latest resources with your community these tips can help you make the most of the iPhone at your library.

  1. Share e-books over the iPhone. Libraries can direct their patrons towards numerous ebook collections that can be a way for both patrons and library staff to read on the go with an iPhone or other mobile device.
  2. Distribute library owned audiobooks. Many libraries have created audiobook collections that patrons can download right onto a portable music device. So long as these books are compatible with Apple's technology (and unfortunately some of the biggest retailers of these materials are not, illogically) patrons can listen to the latest novels right from their phones.
  3. Create streamable materials. Allowing patrons to access library materials via their iPhone, like say, streamed videos make it easier for them to fit library materials into their schedule. Patrons won't have to check them out and can get them whenever they want then watch them at their leisure right from their phones.
  4. Create special playlists of materials. If patrons are allowed to stream materials like music and videos from the library why not create special playlists to help them in seeing new titles they might not be aware of? There are virtually limitless possibilities when creating playlists and they add a more interactive dimension to resources.
  5. Use your phone to Twitter. Loads of people Twitter and get updates on Twitter accounts from their mobile devices so why should a library be any different? Update your Twitter feed with the latest materials or updates about the library through the easy interface over the iPhone.
  6. Upload and listen to podcasts. Because the iPhone is more than just a phone, it's a media player as well, take advantage of these features. You can put your own podcasts on the phone and publish them to the web or stay-up-to date with the latest in technology and library science through listening to other podcasts.
  7. Keep track of a budget. Many libraries have a fairly tight budget but tracking expenses and expenditures can be easy with the iPhone. There are numerous downloadable apps for the phone that track budgets or users can access web-based programs for budgeting as well. Expenses can be entered right when they are made no matter where you're at.
  8. Track requests. You can use your iPhone as an easy way to alert patrons that their requests have arrived whether by phone, email or text and you can record and keep track of these requests as well.
  9. Customize your home screen. Make your library's website a centerpiece of the home screen of your iPhone by bookmarking it an ensuring that you have a webclip for your library. This will make it easy for staff to quickly get access to the site. For extended usability you could even make links for frequently visited parts of the site.
  10. Easily find books patrons are interested in. The iPhone has the potential to make it easy to look up a book when approached by a patron. Whether they know the whole title or author or just know it was featured on Oprah, you'll be able to quickly look up the information on the net, no matter where you are in the library.
  11. Keep in touch with other librarians. Whether you want to keep in touch with your coworkers or a librarian from another branch, the iPhone can make it easy to text, talk, email and IM even if you just need to ask a quick question.
  12. Conference call. The iPhone comes complete with a conference call feature, making it easy to chat with other libraries, government officials deciding your budget or anyone else, with up to five callers allowed on any one session.
  13. Create content that's easy to browse over an iPhone. If you've decided to develop a version of your site that's more easily compatible with mobile phones, consider scaling it down the the basics. Simple search tools and information will be easiest to browse on the go.
  14. Make your content easy to search for. Whether your patrons are using an iPhone or any other kind of mobile device they likely won't be able to find the information your library provides without you optimizing it to work with search engines like Google.
  15. Find the best deals on books. Users of the iPhone will be able to install tools and browse the Web with tools that will give them the ability to find the best deals on just about anything they're looking for, saving money and growing collections.
  16. Monitor collections. With the mobility of the iPhone it's easy to go through the library and check to see that things are where they're supposed to be and make notes if they're not.
  17. Create mobile accessible catalogues. Whether your patrons are in the car and want to know whether or not to head to your library for a book they want or if they're in the library and want to look up something on the fly, creating catalogues that are easily accessible to mobile devices like the iPhone is a must for the future of any library.
  18. Check out the latest apps. The iPhone has hundreds of applications out there that can do just about anything you need from tracking your finances to taking notes. If you don't find what you need, try finding someone to create it for you, as Apple has opened up the iPhone to developers.
  19. Stay current on technology. New things are always coming out that change the way everyone, libraries included, uses technology and the Internet to do thing. Use your iPhone to read up on the latest tech news and blogs to ensure you won't get left behind.

Doing Research

Whether you research for a living or just for special projects for school or work these tips can help you make the most of your iPhone as a research tool.

  1. Check out Ask a Librarian. Ask a Librarian is a Florida-based service that allows patrons to text in questions or chat with librarians at various libraries to get answers to their research questions and to help them find materials. Depending on the nature of the question, it could be just as helpful to non-native Floridians as well.
  2. Take notes. You won't need to bring along paper with the notebook capabilities of iPhone. Take notes in the built in features of the iPhone or use the new mobile version of Google Docs.
  3. Take a photo instead of making a copy. Have a book you want to remember or an image you need for reference? Even if you don't have change for the copier you can capture an image by taking a picture of it with your phone and saving it for later.
  4. Back it up. Don't let your research get lost if something happens to your phone, let alone everything else on your phone. Back it up with a service like this so you won't totally wiped out if something happens.
  5. Create wikis. Whether you're taking notes for yourself or sharing them to collaborate on a wiki can be a simple solution and you can easily create a wiki using your iPhone especially with new programs like this wiki creator called W2 designed just for the iPhone.
  6. Print your documents. You can turn your iPhone into a mobile fax machine of sorts with guides like this making it easy to print off information you need and have it waiting for you.
  7. Get translations easily. For those working on research in multiple languages an easy translation tool can be a must. Use your iPhone for this with downloadable translation tools or by taking advantage of translation services over the web.
  8. Keep research organized. Your iPhone will make it easy to keep research information and documents organized. Utilize a program designed for project management or simply use the Web Access to organize and backup any materials you will need and make sure they're with you everywhere you go.
  9. Access your desktop. Forgot to send yourself an important document from your laptop? Not a problem. With new apps for the iPhone like this you can access your home desktop securely and easily from your iPhone so finding what you need is a snap.
  10. Easily share findings with others. Find information you need at libraries and on websites and easily send the information to others in your group or even just to yourself for reference when you use the iPhonewhile working on a project using simple emails or webclip sharing programs.
  11. Find materials you need. Not sure what library has the books you need? You can check a variety of sites with a few touches to the screen before you ever even leave the house, the classroom or work.
  12. Get directions to research facilities. Find out where you're going to find everything you need with mapping capabilities on your iPhone. That way you'll never get lost and have more time to spend working instead of in transit.
  13. Listen to materials on the go. Many libraries offer materials via audio books and if you'd really like to speed up the amount of time you spend reading materials you may be able to listen to your research rather than read it right over your iPhone.
  14. Bookmark great webpages. iPhone friendly tools like Instapaper make it easy to store important bookmarks of research materials you've found with your iPhone.
  15. Use your iPhone as a storage device. Unlike the iPod which can easily function as a storage device for files, the iPhone isn't really designed to store and carry files. For a mere $10 you can solve this problem and not have to carry around another device with the iPhoneDrive allowing you to keep all your materials in one place.
  16. Share URLs. Sharing links is super easy with the iPhone, whether you're sending them to a collaborator or just to yourself. The process is simple, when you're on the page double click on the address bar, click the share button in the left corner, and a new email will pop up, allowing you to enter an address and send the link out.
  17. Navigate more easily. The iPhone makes it easy to make calls and navigate through webpages with a few touches. Simply double click on a phone number to call that establishment or open embedded information.
  18. Sync with your desktop. Don't just keep your notes on your desktop or your laptop, sync the two. Programs like Evernote make it easy to keep track of notes no matter what platform you're using to access them.
  19. Collaborate with others. Having a mobile device on hand to record research and send email makes it incredibly easy to work with others on collaborative projects. Numerous new applications for the iPhone are designed to make this even easier, by allowing quick and easy document sharing.
  20. Take advantage of iPhone tailored research tools. Many research companies are making their materials easily accessible from mobile devices, including the iPhone. Take advantage of the growing number of tools out there that are catering to your iPhone to make research easier and faster.
  21. Compare data. Web accessibility makes it easy to compare any kind of field research findings with existing data out there.