An App for That: Making Your Library (more) Mobile-Friendly

Virtually every learning system (every CMS, LMS, library database, OPAC) nowadays has the ability to “go mobile”, each with its own version of an app for your users’ tablets or smartphones as well as adaptive or responsive code on their native pages to make them a little easier to navigate on a smaller screen. Or rather, they should.

Libraries of all shapes and sizes have an increasingly large user base which relies solely on personal technology and BYOD, but a surprisingly low percentage of libraries and librarians are experts on supporting these technologies. Nor should they be: librarians, being the superheroes they are, have countless duties and depths of knowledge on subject matter most people don’t even think to ask, each piece of which is vital to the functioning of their library and the support of their patrons.

Librarian Superheroes

Nobody should be expected to be able to hand-train users on how to operate his or her mobile device (although, as superheroes, librarians probably could). Instead, librarians should be well aware of what their current mobile capabilities are – and, possibly, how to improve them.

Here’s a fantastic list put together by LibSuccess: “M-Libraries“. It shows examples of OPACs, mobile databases, and other mobile-friendly technologies being used in the wide world of librarianship. It’s a great starting point to bounce ideas off of and see how other libraries are adapting to mobile technologies.

Here are some key areas on which libraries can focus:


LibraryAnywhere from LibraryThing turns any OPAC into a mobile app. Seriously. If your current OPAC doesn’t have a mobile option, or you want to supplement your current offering, LibraryAnywhere is for you.

- solutions like Innovative Interfaces offer their own mobile accessibility options. check into your current OPAC’s offerings if you aren’t developing your own.

- if you’re developing your own OPAC:

- neat trick: if you’re using Koha (open-source), you can use apps to help manage your inventory:



Almost all subscription and some non-subscription databases offer a tablet- or smartphone-optimized mobile view, and many also have apps available. Take a look at these for starters:

ACS Mobile
ArXiv (iOS)
EBSCO Mobile
ProQuest (optimized for mobile, no separate app) and ebrary (separate app)
PubMed and other NIH apps
ScienceDirect and Scopus Alerts
Taylor & Francis requires pairing of your mobile device
WestLaw Next
Wiley Health has a bunch of apps available
WorldCat Apps

Reference and Citation Tools


These commonly-used reference tools have mobile-friendly sites, but not apps:


And Zotero, while not mobile-friendly, has a tool available called Zandy for Android devices. Other reference/citation sites are reportedly working on mobile availability as well.

Now here’s the extremely fun part: customizing your app knowledge and availability based upon the technologies your school, institution, organization or company use on a regular basis.

This can be daunting if you happen to work at a large academic institution or you happen to be a district library, so you may want to focus (if possible) on subject areas… particularly if your library is physically or conceptually divided into those areas to begin with. If you’re at a smaller institution, this should be a much easier task; if you’re at a public library, this task may require that you coordinate with other branches in your area. It will take time, so be prepared to invest a little. It’s worth it.

Ed Tech

Consider for a moment the fact that your teachers/professors/lecturers/and students are being required by their department or superiors to try out new initiatives for technology in the classroom. Now consider that these initiatives probably include subscription-based software products, some of which are brand-new and some which have been around a while, most of which you’ve never heard of nor had a chance to study. Well then.


Make it known to the decision-makers that the library needs to be apprised of these developments, and get yourself familiar with some of the more “hot” or “in-demand” technologies for classrooms at your academic level. If you’re a department or subject librarian, all the better: you can probably narrow this list down considerably.

First, take a look at Graphite, which compiles Ed Tech offerings in a comprehensive and easy-to-digest format.

Here are some other popular Ed Tech offerings which have mobile components available:

- iSolveIt MathScaled (iOS)
- Prezi (iOS)
- VoiceThread (iOS)



Many, many students, as well as everyday users, find these apps to be lifesavers on their mobile devices. You should, too.

- Dropbox (of course).
Google Drive for Android and Google Drive for iOS
- Trello (AndroidiOS, and even Windows Mobile)

Publicly Accessible Information


These are apps which practically everyone has, or could have, on their smartphones or tablets, and which libraries should be intricately familiar with. Here’s a list of the “best reference apps” from Forbes, and below are a few more:

- and (iOS and Android)
- Google Maps (iOS, Android)
- IMDB - trust me, this is more useful than you think.
- Pocket Constitution (iOS) – note there are other, free Constitution apps available for both iOS and Android.
- Wikipedia (iOS, Android)



These are but a smattering of available options for libraries, librarians, and patrons or users, and of course you’ll need to customize your own familiarity level for what works best in your institution. If you have suggestions for something that could be added to this list, please comment below and tell our other readers about your ideas!