or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Another Great Feature for a Library App

   September 10th, 2014

mute buttonAt the risk of this blog becoming a list of things only interesting to me, here's another cool new-to-me app I just recently learned about.

It's called Mr. Silent, and it lets you auto-mute your phone based on time, location, or contact. It seems like a fairly obvious idea, but apparently this one works better than most - it integrates with your phone's calendar, contacts list, and GPS, and has a nice interface.

So now see, if I were designing the perfect library app, this feature would definitely be in there. As an opt-in thing, of course, but how nice would it be if people could set their phones to automatically go to vibrate when they were at the library? You could even gamify it by rewarding people by moving them up higher on wait lists for every time their phone ringer gets turned off by this app. Or something. I would trade all the hot dogs in the world for this to be a universal thing.

Plus, combine it with the location-based notes feature from a couple weeks ago, and you'd really have something.

Existing library apps are pretty good at covering the basics of catalog search, events calendar, and static information like hours and stuff. And Boopsie's self-check feature is also pretty awesome.

One other feature I'd like to integrate into a library app is an updatable resource map - one that library staff (or anyone I suppose) could add information to. For instance, local points of interest for a walking tour, where public bathrooms are, pay phones, free wifi, etc. Although I guess if you're already using your phone, looking for a pay phone or wifi might be irrelevant. Hmm, one of these days I'll get the hang of cell phones.

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7 Responses to “Another Great Feature for a Library App”

  1. BGinBmore Says:

    The newest theater complex in town has an app that awards you points toward a goodie when you silence your cellphone there; if only it had the automatic-mute feature you describe above.

    To that resource map can we add a feature that would point to an item not on the shelf where the catalog says it is and not on a display but languishing in a pile of books abandoned by a customer on a study room table or on a To Be Withdrawn cart in the workroom?

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @BG: I think I’ve seen something like that in a theater by me too – like putting your phones “to sleep” so they could dream? Anything to get the idea across in an attention-getting and courteous way.

    And I think the map you mention is the Holy Grail of library services.

  3. Caitlin Cahill Says:

    I use ifttt.com to automatically silence my phone at work and at my favorite library branches. You can publish ifttt recipes, so you could make a recipe specific to your library and link to it on your website. Would definitely be cool to include it as a feature in an app though. Unfortunately, my library is ditching the native app for a responsive website.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Caitlin: I’ve used ifttt for some thing, but I didn’t know it could do stuff like this on a phone. That’s a great idea – I will check it out. Thanks!

  5. Mara Says:

    What I want is to train the books to float themselves from the discharge room up to the shelves so we don’t have the “available” but not yet back on the shelf lag. I guess ebooks are as close as we can get for now.

  6. Amy Says:

    Free wi-fi locations might be valuable for people with smartphones, if the person has a limited data plan and doesn’t want to go over, being able to switch to wi-fi could be very helpful.

  7. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    @BGinBMore: There are some Bluetooth tags that would do what you describe, and the one linked in my name uses the radar map from the Alien movies to locate the tagged item. That would certainly spice up a day at the reference desk!

    The only downsides are that most of the tags are close to the size of a car key fob, cost at least $25 apiece, only work within 100 feet, and can only be used 10 at a time with most existing apps.

    Still, a future where this sort of thing is as cheap and compact as an RFID tag makes my librarian heart pitter-patter.