Alternative Discovery Options: DCPL mobileapps

Chris Tonjes (IT Director/CIO) and William McClendon (Enterprise Architect) of the District of Columbia Public Library were the presenters of this session. They have a good team that have been doing some very innovative things. They even blog about some of the stuff they do and other interesting information at the DCPL Labs Amino site. I’ve been following it for a while and have found it very informative. They were the first library in the country with an iPhone app and it is pretty slick. The theme of their presentation was about developing that app and the strategies involved. I was impressed by their knowledge and skills. Parts of their presentation were a bit too technical for me so I’ll try to write what I understand.

On with the notes:

It is not the time to retrench and not offer new things because of budget cuts. It is time to experiment with new tech and try the things that may make our services better. (amen!)

They are allowed to experiment and fail. A lot of the things they try don’t see the light of day but they get to try. Their boss encourages it. Their experiments are small and not publicized. I really like the “labs” idea and really would like to have something similar.

Goals for their mobile/iPhone app

  • Wanted to integrate their content with the iPhone interface and iTunes app store
  • Leverage their code with many other new things

The platform will become more agnostic soon as they develop new versions. They used the lessons they learned building their iPhone app to expand their mobile offerings and will begin applying those lessons as they move forward. A new version of the app will have a library barcode in it for scanning. It will also take payments via iTunes. Make and change holds, update account. They are working on BlackBerry and Android versions too.

They chose to design the iPhone app instead of a general mobile site because an app is:

  • WebServices driven
    • Built once, usable for all implementations
    • ILS system, version, platform, and patch agnostic
      • no need to need to update whenever there is a change in the ILS
      • it doesn’t matter what ILS they use (they can change and it won’t affect the app)
    • Implementation did not disrupt ILS, staff, patrons, or IT!
  • Apps are platform OS specific, utilize unique features
    • you get all the cool features of the platform
  • App store based delivery, 100% smartphone OS vendor support
  • Webservices are ILS specific, but Apps are NOT
    • port Webservices to alternate ILS, transparent to ALL consumers •
  • Insulates back-office changes from end-user
  • Full library branding and marketability
  • SOA enabled to other entities
    • govt., university, schools, parks and rec.

There was a lot to this session that I missed. I’m hoping someone took some very good notes. I feel that this is an area worthy of significant investigation.

This was my last session of CIL2010 and I have to admit that I was exhausted and looking forward to going home and seeing my family. I apologize for my shallow notes. Luckily one of our web developers was in attendance and was able to take good notes.

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