Using Mobile Devices FOR Research Smartphones, Databases, and Libraries

By Murphy, Joe | Online, May/June 2010 | Go to article overview

Using Mobile Devices FOR Research Smartphones, Databases, and Libraries


Murphy, Joe, Online


When confronted with the need to do serious research, do you reach first for your phone, your laptop, a desktethered computer - or is it your mobile device? A growing number of researchers are engaging mobile devices as search tools. Smartphones, cell phones, and other mobile technologies are now commonly among the first places people turn when seeking information.

Increasingly, mobile devices are used as information tools for current awareness as well as for search. Newspapers, from The Wall Street Journal to the Financial Times to local city dailies, have created mobile versions, which are optimized for reading on a cell phone screen. Factiva will send alerts to your mobile device.

There are differences in information- seeking behaviors beyond simply reading news on your mobile. What you first use to search often depends upon convenience - and the easiest route is often dictated by your mobile technology habits. You can easily grab an answer from Google or Wikipedia using a mobile web browser or application. Text messaging is even easier, and it's become endemic with mobile phones. You can text a friend or ChaCha (text 242242) for a quick answer. Then there's social networking. Another approach is to query your social circle through Twitter or Facebook, again using your phone.

Switching gears to professional-grade research as opposed to ready reference or personal trivia questions changes the situation. When people need a thorough survey or in-depth search of a topic, they are still expected to move on to traditional tools and settle down at the computer to scour proprietary databases and the library OPAC.

However, as aspects of our lives rely more heavily on our mobile devices, we are becoming more willing to embrace the use of mobile technologies for searching and advanced research. The information industry is adapting to reflect this shift in user behavior. Because of advances in mobile technology and changes in our approach to engaging information, our quests for the deepest information resources can be just as convenient and mobile.

LIBRARIES ADOPTION OF SMS

Libraries have taken up the need for answers via SMS (short-messaging service) by providing text message reference services through a variety of technologies and models. While not a new development, this addition of librarians into the mobile search arena by SMS has been a major step in keeping the expertise of the librarian within the mobile information-seeking experience.

Search with other mobile technologies, including mobile applications and mobile social networks, is growing. Mobile applications are pieces of software produced by third parties such as businesses or services that people can download onto their smartphones. The recent explosion in popularity of mobile applications (the phrase "There's an app for that" has entered the popular vocabulary with a vengeance) has fueled a new direction in mobile search. Many information resources and portals have created mobile applications as powerful gateways to their online resources. Major web search engines, as diverse as Google, Bing, and Wolfram Alpha now offer powerful search experiences via smartphone applications. These tools have set the stage and offered lessons for libraries and information vendors pursuing mobile search projects.

MOBILE APPLICATIONS FOR PROPRIETARY DATABASES

Back up. What about those proprietary databases so essential to library research? Yes, there are apps for those Several information companies have begun to make their tools accessible to mobile searchers by introducing mobile search gateways in the form of smartphone applications or mobile web platforms. Mobile applications for iPhones have been the central thrust of mobile endeavors because of the versatility and popularity that comes with the dedicated and flexible search experience. This sets them apart from sites on mobile web browsers. The following are a sample of mobile search resources currently available from vendors as iPhone applications. …

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Using Mobile Devices FOR Research Smartphones, Databases, and Libraries
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