Topeka’s Mobile App

Topeka has it’s first mobile library app – brought to you via the fine folks at Boopsie!

In the pic on the left, you can see the icon as it displays on my iPhone. It’s the one that’s titled “Topek….brary.” Apparently, “Topeka Library” doesn’t fit underneath the icon on an iPhone. “Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library” certainly wouldn’t fit! Oh well – not completely unheard of – I’ve seen a couple other app icon titles that do that, too.

So go ahead, download it, and play with it. There’s an iPhone, Android, and Blackberry app. Or, pretty much any phone with browser capabilities can go to and you’ll either be directed to download the appropriate app or you’ll be dumped into the web version of the app.

Either way, pretty cool stuff for us!

Here’s what we’re doing with it. Check out the screenshot at the right (larger version here) – it’s the main page of the app. When creating the main functionality of the mobile app, our thinking went like this: when would someone use our mobile phone app, and what would they want to do with it?

We decided they’d be in line at the grocery store, or picking up their child from school. Or they’d be wherever, but have maybe a couple of minutes to quickly check on something. In those scenarios, how might they want to interact with the library?

Here’s what we came up with:

  • Library Catalog: search for something, put it on hold
  • My Account: see what’s due and renew it, etc
  • Ask a Librarian: ask a question – links provided for phone, text messaging, and email questions
  • Locations & Hours: links to addresses and maps for our main building, our bookmobile stops, and our book drop locations
  • Connect with us: links to our Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Flickr accounts
  • What’s missing? We wanted to know what our patrons wanted this app to do that wasn’t there yet, so we provided an easy way for them to tell us – it’s a simple form that sends an email to me.

What do our customers want to do that we’re not yet providing?

  • paying fines from their phones
  • checking out our calendar of events
  • checking out movies from our Mediabank DVD dispenser (it’s a separate catalog)

Otherwise, everyone that we’ve heard from has liked the app – we’re getting comments like “so cool! I already think we have the best library and then u show us just another reason to love @topekalibrary.”

Not bad at all!

  • Anonymous

    Very nice David! Couple of thoughts – possibly rename it to Topeka PL or Topeka Lib or TSCPL? You offer LibraryH3lp on the website, but don’t include it in the app – why not? Only other thing I noticed on a quick peek was that it might be nice to align the hours of operation on the TSCPL Locator page. I’d be really curious to know what kind of usage statistics you can collect from the app – will you post what you can?

  • Michelle Watson

    David, just wondering why you decided to create an app, rather than a mobile friendly website that could be used on any mobile device? The Library I’m working at is grappling with where we should be challenging our energies and resources. Thanks.

  • Colleen Greene

    Our library has opted to go the same route, a mobile-friendly (browser-based) site instead of an apps site, so I’d like to hear Topeka’s reasoning for the apps approach.

    As a heavy mobile user, I personally DO prefer sites that offer an apps-based site instead of a mobile browser-based site, because it allows for more authenticated user services that don’t constantly require logging in each time I use the site on my mobile device.

  • davidleeking

    Hmm – good thoughts on the naming thing – I’ll think about it!

    On the Libraryh3lp thing – a couple of thoughts:
    – we sorta do include it – our text messaging gets funneled through
    Libraryh3lp, so it IS there…
    – not sure as many people IM on their phones…
    – we are possibly moving to another IM/text messaging service

    I don’t have any stats yet, but will share them once I do!

  • davidleeking

    Colleen and Michelle – on the app vs mobile website thing.

    Our big goal with going mobile was to get our catalog online, and Boopsie
    does that for us (we’re currently on Horizon, and it doesn’t have a mobile
    version). So big goal achieved!

    Why not just let Boopsie do the rest for us for now? It doesn’t cost any
    more (since we’re already paying), and gets us on every major phone anyway.
    Phones that don’t have apps get pushed to a browser-based version of the
    Boopsie app, so we cover that, too.

    Plus, saying we have a “mobile app” is sexy for the community … :-)

    Our eventual goal is to offer a normal mobile website that has connections
    to our catalog, our events calendar, paying fees online, etc. We see the
    Boopsie app as the first phase of a longer, multi-phased project to get us
    where we want to be with mobile technology.

  • andrewjsather

    David, what about database access for patrons? It seems like that would be a popular service. I know database vendors are behind when it comes to mobile friendly websites….

  • davidleeking

    We didn’t think that’s what our patrons would do while using the mobile app.
    Since we were thinking about what things people might do while standing in
    line at the grocery store … well, not too many people use that time to do
    an article search in ProQuest (we don’t think so anyway).

    And so far, no one’s requested that feature. If droves of people start
    asking for it, we’ll certainly see if we can add it!

  • Matt

    David, my boss is interested in Boopsie and I’m hoping you can answer a few rookie questions. How long did it take to set up? Is the set up process difficult? How are they to work with? I’ve contacted them but I’d like to get your opinion since you just worked with them.

  • davidleeking

    Some answers for you:

    – how long? Hmm… maybe 2 months or so? Definitely not 2 months full-time.
    More like from start to finish, with meetings, emailing stuff, Q&A back and
    forth a bit, etc.
    – Easy set up process. They use a Google Doc that’s easy to make changes to.
    – How are they to work with? Great – very responsive, fast, and

    I’d definitely recommend them!

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