The San Jose Public Library‘s mobile app, designed by Boopsie, is now live and works on all platforms: Apple/iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Palm, Windows Mobile, etc. You can see a live demo of what the app looks like at http://sjpl.boopsie.com. Go to the same site on your mobile device to be redirected to the appropriate download for your device. If you’re an Apple or Android user you can also look in the App Store or Marketplace for “SJPL” or “San Jose Library” to find the app. All I gotta say is: it’s freaking awesome. I’ve been using it to search for and reserve books for weeks, and browse new titles when I’m in long lines. It’s super easy and super fast.
The features of our app include:
- a smart catalog search feature that predicts as you type, with summaries and what libraries have copies on the shelf
- reserve and renew items / check your account
- RSS feeds with cover images for our newest books, movies, music, and eBooks in different genres, subject areas, and languages
- location listings with one-click maps to the 19 SJPL locations
- mobile access to tens of thousands of the library’s online magazines and newspapers through EBSCO Mobile
- one-click access to calling, texting, or emailing the library staff
- upcoming events and classes at all of our libraries
- quick access to the Library’s Facebook and Twitter profiles
The app’s been out for everything but Apple for weeks now, so we resisted publicizing it. After much kerfuffle with the Apple app store folks (*fist shaking*), including rejection of our app the first time we submitted it, Boopsie finally helped us get it all up and running. There is still a tweaky bit with the Facebook link in the Apple version (*double fist shaking*) but all in all, most things are happy-go-snappy now. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
The experience with Boopsie has been good, and working with them was way easier and more cost-effective than trying to build our own cross-platform app. I would recommend cross-platform development to all libraries–don’t just do an iPhone app. You’re leaving so many users of Blackberry, Android, and other devices in the dust and saying they don’t matter as much to you. It’s kind of like the uncool fact that our library eAudioBooks don’t work on Macs. You don’t want to (and should never) alienate people based on their device choices, nor should you or the vendors you use show bias toward or against a particular platform.
If libraries are struggling with the “what do we do with mobile” question, I’d first recommend developing a simple, scaled-down mobile-friendly version of your website. Second, and if you have the money, I’d recommend working with Boopsie to develop an app for the library. Mobile web access and mobile app access reach similar, but sometimes different, audiences. So it’s best to have both, but the website’s more important. Why? Because the app requires that not only the user find out there is an app, but make a conscious effort to download it, then an effort to remember it’s there and to use it when they need library stuff. Not everyone would do that. But most mobile users would look to see if they can renew books or find directions on the library’s website, and if you have a mobile-happy website, so much the better for you and your customers.