Editorial Articles

vol.33, 2017

Smart Library Apps : Productive and Innovative Steps in Digital Literacy

Dr O S Shekhar Singh and Prof (Dr) M T M Khan

Recent advances, in our ability, to process and share information in electronic form are reshaping the economies and social infrastructures of many countries around the world. Libraries lead the way to digital citizenship. They should be the first places where most advanced technologies are implemented. Smart Library Apps (SLA) initiative will boost library services transforming them innovatively into learning hubs in techno-digital smart society.
Libraries are the store houses of recorded knowledge. The physical media that records knowledge is changing from time to time with technological advancements and innovations. The legendary evolution of library is traced to the Clay Tablet Library of King Ashurbanipal at Nineveh around 4 B.C. to the present Smart Library. The advent of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), the Internet and particularly the World Wide Web have revolutionized everything under the sun. The dawn of information & communication revolution has changed the face of many institutions. Now, we are living in a digital world. The evidence is everywhere in form of e-camera, e-diary, digital television, e-signature etc. At the same time, information is also recorded, stored, retrieved and disseminated in the e-form at a large scale. The term library is understood to have been reaped from the Latin word 'liber' connoting book(s) placed in an organized manner for the purpose of use.
Electronic information is an electronic signal travelling on a global network at an exponential speed. To take care of the information explosion, better and faster networks as well as updated tools and techniques are required. Information is growing at very fast pace. The trend and change in the information related field especially in relation to the collection, processing, storing and dissemination of information have resulted into the evolution of Libraries into Smart Libraries. It provides their services by using tools and techniques which are more effective and user-friendly in present smart e-environment. Smart Library Apps (SLA) is a tool which is much beneficial for all libraries, especially libraries of national importance, libraries of academic institutions. Today, libraries are not only about lending books. They are creative spaces, not only for individuals, but also teams. They are economic incubators and learning hubs. The libraries with smart apps provide the required documents directly to the users on the screen of their hand-held devices like smart phones, tablets to interact with smart e-information. Smart Library Apps will evolve through a cycle of fast technological developments in order to cater to the needs of individuals with interests in their fields. A smart library app can disseminate its information to patrons in a moment on their screen and users can retrieve/share the available information to others.
Apps, or native applications, are small programmes for your smart devices. They allow users to check email, Twitter, and Facebook, surf the web, listen to music or check whether the trains are running on time. Besides platform-specific apps, several mobile websites as well, also known as web apps, which are accessible through your smart device's browser (Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox etc.) and work regardless of the sort of smart device. These websites have been optimized for use on a smart device display. Due to working through the browser, they are often a little slower  in use than native apps.
Smart Library App will boost library services and provide quick access like Searching the Catalogue.  The patron if usually gets too many results, a new button will appear on screen: if you get more than again hits, you'll be able to switch to Collections or Special Collection, using the previous search terms; Log into 'My Account' after which you can see which books you've borrowed and when they have to be returned; loan, renew or request; Stay current with the News/updates from the library; Find locations and actual opening hours for all library locations; Follow the library on social sites like Fb, Twitter and Chat with the library professional: available 24X7 a week. Twenty five years ago, people were saying the internet would make libraries go away. It has actually made us busier. The SLA app will promote the services of the regular library website, with the help of app the user can scan the ISBN the bar code on the cover of any book and will search the library catalogue to see if it is available to be borrowed. Smart Library App will be another like access point to use the library, no doubt user can use the library when it's convenient for him.
The new innovative application of smart library app will make an impact on the role of library services and information professionals, as well as users of information, concerned to their urgent need. Smart library app (SLA) is an app which has a number of digital e-information resources which are linked by server and setup under network. The information sources and their dissemination are completely digitized and can be access on any tablets or smart phones after installing SLA, whether in a library, at home or at work. Smart library apps are revolutionizing the information dissemination with respect to access, speed and availability. You need internet connection to download the SLA for the first time. Download only the ones you're going to use and you can access info after connect. The basic concepts behind the smart library apps are the availability and sharing of the resources globally for providing right information to the right user at the right time. The smart library app is nothing but the app which have linkages to various sources of information in electronic or digital form of particular library worldwide. SLA occupies less space, needs less man power to manage and therefore, is cost effective.
In fact, Library patrons in Westford, New Jersey can now use their smart phones as library cards. The CardStar app lets patrons save their library card barcode on their smart phones. Then they can scan the code directly off the phone to check out books. The Oakville Public Library is also joining the smart phone app trend, by offering an app that allows patrons to access their accounts. Patrons can place holds, renew checked out items, check library hours, search collections and download e-books and audio books. Cambridge library's website also adapts automatically to mobile devices. Cambridge also offers an app, but it's only serves up information about upcoming events. Ebscohost, a web app gives access to several databases, such as PsycINFO, ERIC and Academic Search Premier. It offers both an iPhone and Android app, which provides a simplified login compared to the Mobile version. After downloading the app, you'll need to open up an Ebsco database through the Digital Library. WorldCat, a worldwide catalogue containing materials held in the collections of over 10,000 libraries in dozens of countries. WorldCat has both an iPhone app and a web app.
Indian academic libraries need to go digitised through updated tools and techniques to provide information on screen by new innovative services by SLA (Smart Library Apps) for smart devices like tablets / smart phones, OCB (On-line Chat box) and VHD (Virtual Help Desk). Some academic libraries in our country are now moving towards smart services. National Digital Library sponsored by MHRD, Govt. of India and coordinated by IIT Kharagpur recently launched their NDL App from smart devices where e-information and e-resources available for people like DLI (more than 5,00,000 classical books), LibriVox (more than 2 lakhs audio books), SNLTR (Digitalization of literary works by Rabindranath Tagore), KrishiKosh (more than 50,000 books, journals, articles and reports in agriculture), NPTEL (MHRD sponsored project that hosts 10,000+ video lectures in engineering domain) and currently hosts 412096 items which increases people's interest to use NDL specially researchers and students who need these valuable e-information resources. Government should take initiative to setup some e-academic smart apps as well as to give directions to all academic institutions to develop their Library app, on the basis of users need which subscribe and access in e-form from library and link of available e-resources on web, too, which are used for academic purposes by faculties, researchers and students like e-PG Pathshala (An MHRD Project under its National Mission on Education through ICT to develop e-content in 71 subjects at postgraduate level ), Virtual Labs, A-VIEW, Talks to Teacher (an award winning indigenously built multi-modal, multimedia e-learning platform that provides an immersive e-learning experience), Spoken Tutorial, VLE (Virtual Learning Environment, an online environment of e-resources caters to several disciplines taught at undergraduate and postgraduate level), E-Kalpa (project on creating digital-learning environment), etc. It will move Indian students towards their study and education. It clearly shows traditional systems are transforming into e-systems and virtual learning systems.
The smart library apps can play key role in reading-learning in techno digital smart age. It will download and install in very easy manner in smart phones and tablets as and when required; therefore the information services are not confined within the walls but are integrated into local, regional, national, and international networks to all, from villagers to advance ones. Academic libraries will achieve their goal by this simple innovative step of library app services to fulfil the laws of library & information science given by Dr S R Ranganathan i.e. ‘save the time’ of the users' and 'every reader his/her book'.
Features of Smart Library App (SLA): The structured information which is provided through SLA is called digital
e-object which includes e-text, e-audio, e-video, e-photographs, e-images, e-drawings, e-computer programs, e-art works, e-illustrations, e-numeric data, e-cosmological data, digitized e-sound, e-graphics and multimedia components in digital e-form. SLA undoubtedly requires digital smart devices like tablets, smart phones etc and web technologies. In addition, to computerization of traditional and routine work, have to have following features:
*Provides links to different digital objects.
*Supports national movement 'Digital India'.
*Supports publicity and integration of e-information.
*A smart app provides the opportunity of accessibility to a piece of information in available format form anywhere whether in a library, at home or at work.
*Supports traditional library mission of collection development, organization, access and preservation.
*Provides access to very large information collections both primary and secondary.
*Supports and provides search and retrieval interface.
*SLA is expected to overcome this barrier through remote accessing to rare and expensive material of large quantity.
*To facilitate the accessibility by user independently, SLA should provide a powerful user friendly interface effective search and retrieval.
*Ease of handling, searching, and managing.
*The reproduction of hard copy from digitized e-devices is neat and clean with saving important time.
*Play key roles informal learning setting.
Research in libraries is essential in enabling more people to create and use vast quantity of distributed information. Quick info research in library is faced with computational capacity and network to manage terabytes of data that need to be accessed in full, yet be reducible to human scale. Smart library app provides quick and fast links to utilize and complete task within minutes with the help of smart screen in your hand. To make info society better, the Government should provide adequate finance and other facilities towards new updated tools and applications for e-resources and services especially to academic institutions (primary to higher). In fact, academic libraries/institutions (particularly of national importance) should take initiatives to develop more updating tools and applications like SLA (Smart Library Apps) for smart devices like tablets / smart phones, OCB (On-line Chat box) and VHD (Virtual Help Desk) which are user friendly, to access their e-collection, web and open web resources. This step/SLA will motivate users (registered and non-registered) to use available open web resources, e-resources and e-services of respective libraries than common resources whose authenticity is not proved. Government should take initiatives to develop NEC App (National E-Corner) for available e-resources, open web resources and services in different libraries/institutions in the country to make best use of them which are just a click away on a nominal fee to complete vision Digital India 2020. It will help to expose and encourage to use open access resources. It is a fact that the value of these resources increases as they are used and Smart Library App has been remarkable, move than our expectations.
In order, to improve technological literacy of local communities, libraries should be equipped with relevant technologies like library bookmark & guide device, book delivery drone, digital interface for print books, mobile library centre, some of them in a concept phase - that could be used in the future.
(Shekhar Singh is a Librarian with NVS Noida, and  M T M Khan is Professor & Dean, School of Library & Information Science, Galgotias University, Greater Noida,
e-mail : shekharlib22@gmail.com; mtmkhan55@gmail.com)
Image: Courtesy Google