Appealing Library Apps

What's happening with apps in the library world? Many libraries are designing apps to extend access to their own services and others are creating applaudable programming. Libraries are providing online access to previously closed collections, demonstrating how to download ebooks on the go, and integrating apps provided by library database vendors to allow for vetted research from mobile devices. 

Here are a few useful ways libraries are using apps that I've discovered. Help us add to this list by sharing in the comments any apps your library uses or admires. 

New York Public Library's Game App

The New York Public Library invited its community to participate in an adventure game using an app named Find the Future. Over 5,000 people participated and wrote 1,392 stories. Read the description of this creative learning activity:

Inside the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building are 100 powerful objects that have changed history. Unlock maps to each Artifact, learn their stories, and scan them with your camera phone to activate their special Powers. Collect the Powers of each item by touching and holding your screen. Watch your Powers grow — and finish your adventure online, where the 100 Artifacts you find at the Library can help you write and publish your own world-changing Epic! Find out more at:

Naperville Public Library Instructional Videos: Using Apps

The Naperville Public Library not only has an app, they've also created YouTube videos to show their community how to use them. The introductory videos include a QR code that people can use to download the app immediately. It also includes information on how to download e-books through their device. Learn more about their mobile access on their site. The YouTube videos include:

Apps Created by Libraries

  • The Orange County Library System Shake It! app is available for both Android or Apple devices. You can find something to read, watch, or listen to by giving your device a shake, and OCLS Shake It! will find audiobooks, movies, novels, biographies, and more.
  • The New York Public Library's Biblion is a 1939 World's Fair app which won the 2011 Apple Education App of the Year Award. Watch a video all about it and the amazing archives that are now available for online viewing. 

Castro Valley Library Hosts App Challenge

Last month, more than 100 programmers and designers participated in the Alameda County Apps Challenge. 24 apps were created using county data. The app that won first place is named BookIT and enables you to scan book barcodes with a smartphone to determine library availability and to reserve books immediately. The second place app was developed by two Castro Valley High School students who created an app that lets residents find recreational sites. Third place went to SNAP Mapper, an app named for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which allows those using food stamps to rate stores and lists types of food available. Find out more on the Alameda County Apps Challenge site or by reading this Silicon Valley newspaper article

Apps for Libraries

These apps were developed, mainly by vendors, for libraries to use and localize.  

  • OverDrive (ebook vendor; enables wireless ebook downloads)
  • Library Anywhere (developed by LibraryThing; takes any library catalog and makes it mobile, instantly.)
  • Gale’s AccessMyLibrary (uses GPS to find public libraries within a 10-mile radius of your location then provides free access to credible Gale online resources.)
  • (education app availabe by subscription to connect users to expert tutors for real-time help for homework, essays, and projects)
  • WorldCat (apps developed by OCLC)
  • Goodreads The world's largest social network for readers with an enormous catalog of books and book 
  • Mango Languages (Mango language learning lessons app for libraries) 
  • EBSCOhost (database vendor; Search for articles in scholarly journals, popular magazines, and newspapers with this app.)

Learn more about apps in tomorrow's webinar, Transforming Communities Through Apps: Part II.