A Library in Your Pocket (or purse)

book myne

Our library system recently adopted a new app to allow users to interact with their library accounts and our catalog on their mobile devices–BookMyne (iOS, Android). It was a bit odd to suddenly see it show up in the library system’s home page; we employees didn’t get any kind of notice or notification about it at all. In fact, we had asked several times over the last few years on our employee forum if we’d be getting an app and every time we were told that the mobile version of our regular catalog was sufficient; we didn’t need a separate app.

However, we recently got a new online catalog–and, since then, the new app. After seeing the notice on the public version of the library page, I grabbed my phone and pulled up the library’s home page–sure enough, the mobile version, which is usually the default when I’m on a mobile device, was a no-show. So I downloaded the app and started to play with it.

It was pretty easy to set up my account–find my library and enter my user information (library card number). Once you’re signed in, there are four options: search, my account, downloads, and about (or change library or change user, which I guess technically makes it six, but most of us probably aren’t going to use those two much, if at all).

The search feature is pretty bare bones–you can search by “all fields”, “title”, “author”, or “subject”. I did a few quick ones in each field. I did like that when you clicked on a title in your search results it told you right away if one was available in “your” library or not. If it was a title you had checked out already, the option to renew it was right there. I didn’t have anything that was up for (or eligible for) renewal at the time, so I didn’t use that feature, but it was nice to see it there. What I didn’t see were any digital versions of materials listed–odd, given the third option on the main menu, but more about that in a bit. A new option that the old mobile catalog didn’t have was a barcode scanner. I scanned a barcode for a Blu-Ray movie, found that my library had it, and was given the option on the item page to place a hold on it. That was a neat feature. I would also have liked to have seen an option to add the item to/make a list, but that didn’t show up anywhere. (A quick glance at the reviews in the Apple store indicated that this used to be a feature at one point, at least in the iOS version. A shame it went away.)

My account took me to a screen where I could choose to review my current checkouts, holds, fees, and profile (personal information). The menu screen showed me right away that 2 items in my checkouts might need to be looked at–one is overdue (and sadly not eligible for renewal) and another is due tomorrow–and that I had some fees. Clicking through to the detail page, I could quickly see which titles were overdue or due soon and how many if any renewals were left for each. The holds page showed any holds I currently had and gave me the option to edit, remove, or suspend them. The fees page said what fees I had and why–there was no option to pay them, but that could be because I didn’t have enough fees to pay online (our online catalog requires at least $5 in fines to pay online with a credit card). If–when–my fees get that high, I’ll recheck that part of the app. The profile page showed my name, address, phone, and email with no option to change them at all. Since I didn’t put that information into the app, I assume it’s populated from the personal information in my library user profile. I’ll note here as well that the checkouts and holds categories only showed the physical items on my account–the digital ones were not accounted for at all, and to be sure, I made sure my account had both a digital checkout and a digital hold before checking. Nada.

Which makes the download menu item that much more puzzling. The main menu tells me that I can open and delete downloads there, but nowhere else in the app can I even see digital items, so… Maybe our system isn’t compatible with digital items through this app (we use Overdrive)? Or we haven’t yet connected that part of the catalog, but will later? Reviews from the app stores show that others have used that part of the app just fine, so it (hopefully) isn’t an issue with the version on my phone. I haven’t talked to anyone else in the system yet who’s used it, so that is another item for the wait and see list. It’s particularly puzzling, though, because the new online version of our catalog finally integrated a user’s two accounts–their digital and their physical–into one. So it’s a bit odd that the mobile version of our catalog now deals with everything but digital versions of our materials.

The about section is pretty standard–there’s a help tab, the privacy policy, a link to give feedback, version information, and the app’s copyright information. It’s interesting to note that I clicked on the help tab to see if I could find out more information about downloads, digital items, and paying fines (it was standard information that assumed people could, with no details about why you might not be able to) and then I couldn’t leave the help section. Leaving the app and then selecting it from my phone’s home screen took me right back into help…finally I cleared the app from my active apps list and then was able to restart into the app itself again. A bit of a pain, I have to admit.

So…the jury’s still out on our library’s new app. I’ll have to keep playing around with it and see if/how it changes over time.

What about you? Does your library have an app and/or a mobile version of its catalog? What do you think of it?