Wednesday, 16th December 2009
AccessMyLibrary for the iPhone Goes Live, Complete Gale Database Content Quickly (It Should Be Quicker) Available for Mobile Users
Yes, AccessMyLibrary has gone mobile.
So many products (even some with the same name), so little time. Here we go.
AccessMyLibrary is a service from Gale/Cengage that has been online for several years and allows users to search via a simple web interface and gain access to a lot of content without needing a library card. A lot of content, yes, but by no means all of what Gale has to offer -- let alone methods to search it.
However, while Gale's new mobile service for iPhone (we would guess more platforms to come) is named "AccessMyLibrary," it's really NOT related to the service described above. It's something new.
This new service focuses on helping users and POTENTIAL users locate their local public libraries (assuming they subscribe to Gale products*) and, at the same time, allow them to access whatever databases their libraries offer via their iPhone WITHOUT THE NEED FOR A LIBRARY CARD.
* Libraries not subscribing to a Gale product are not shown.
That sure is a change.
The hope is people using the service will become motivated to learn about everything their local library provides and then become library cardholders. Remember, only libraries located within a 10 mile radius of a person's location are shown.
From the Web Site:
Based on your location [using the iPhones GPS], AccessMyLibrary will point you to libraries within a 10-mile radius of your location. You can then select a library and obtain access to its Gale electronic resources.
Again, these are the complete resources/databases and what one library subscribes to, another library might not.
You can also use this app to find the address or to contact the library directly in your area.
1) There is no direct searching via AccessMyLibrary Mobile. You first select a library (using a map/GPS) and then you're presented with a list of databases (what that specific library subscribes to).
2) Next, make a database selection. Unfortunately, unless you have an idea of what a database provides or doesn't provide, you're pretty much left clueless. Gale needs to provide better descriptions. For example, "General One File" or "Academic One File" does not mean much to a non-librarian (and may leave many a librarian scratching his/her head). Gale should also indicate the amount of actual content available; the databases are powerful research tools that are home to articles from thousands of publications and can be accessed for free.
Another issue is that some search interface pages and results pages are NOT optimized for the iPhone. We've learned that Gale is currently working to solve this issue, but pages now are a bit difficult to read, and you'll need to spend some time enlarging each page to either read it or search from it. All of the content, however, is there.
3) Now you're ready to search. Enter your terms and go. Again, it's often a challenge to get your terms into the search box so be ready to enlarge the page.
4) One feature offered by several databases is the option to download an article in MP3 format and then have it read to you via a synthesized voice. Neat idea! Look for the link in the "Tools" section of the article, where you will also find options to translate (mechanical translation), create citations, download, share, and more.
Quite a different approach vs. what AccessMyLibrary.com provides. It will be interesting to see if people will not only use the app to locate their library, but will also take advantage of the full text content without needing to enter a library card number. We've heard people -- especially those who haven't visited a library in a long time -- complain that getting a card was too much work. Now, at least for iPhone owners, that excuse is gone.
Unfortunately, the cynic must ask if increased use of these databases will result in price increases. In most cases, higher usage is a good thing. It shows many folks find the service valuable. However, this is the library world and increased usage doesn't mean increased funding. Often, in fact, the opposite is true.
Finally, if this program is successful, will other vendors that sell to public libraries develop similar services?
Access and Download the App via the iTunes App Store. It's free.
Hat Tip: Dr. Web