Usability study of the mobile library App: an example from Chongqing University

Date21 September 2015
Publication Date21 September 2015
AuthorQunyi Wei,Zhaoxin Chang,Qin Cheng
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology
Usability study of the mobile
library App: an example from
Chongqing University
Qunyi Wei
Library, Chongqing University, Chongqing, China, and
Zhaoxin Chang and Qin Cheng
School of Economics and Business Administration,
Chongqing University, Chongqing, China
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to determine the usability of the mobile library App of
Chongqing University and to provide recommendations for improving the experience of App users.
Design/methodology/approach Usability testing, which comprised pre-test questionnaires,
accomplishing tasks, and post-test surveys, was conducted in this study. The effectiveness and
efficiency of the App, as well as user satisfaction with it, were measured.
Findings The mobile App was proven effective but the efficiency of the App required improvement.
With regard to user satisfaction, the factors clarityand usefulnessreceived the lowest and highest
scores, respectively. The descriptions of mobile services were unclear and confused users; nonetheless,
the services provided by this App were appealing and useful to the users. Based on the measured user
experience, this study proposed several recommendations for enhancing the usability of the App.
Originality/value An increasing number of domestic and foreign libraries have begun to use
mobile Apps to provide new services to patrons. In the future, smartphones are likely to become crucial
to the delivery of information services. Given the extensive use of the Super Star Mobile Library
system adopted by Chongqing University Library in China, the usability of such a system must be
investigated. Improving the usability of the mobile library App can help enhance user experience.
Keywords Evaluation, Academic libraries, Usability, Mobile App, Mobile library, Mobile service
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
The popularization of third-generation communication technology, the developmen t of
mobile internet, and the declining prices of smartphones have established a solid
foundation for the use of mobile phones to browse the internet. As a result, the number
of mobile phone users has increased worldwide. IDC (2014) revealed that vendors
shipped 1,004.2 million units of smartphones internationally. Moreover, vendors
shipped more than 1 billion units for the first time in 2013; this value was 38.4 percent
higher than that obtained in the previous year. The same trend was observed in the
sales of Chinese smartphones. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology
(2014) reported that 423 million smartphones were shipped in 2013; this figure was
64.1 percent higher than that listed in the previous year. The number of Chinese cell
phone users also increases continuously. In July 2014, the China Internet Network
Information Center (2014) published the 34th China Internet Network Development
Statistical Reports and revealed that 527 million units of Chinese cell phones were
Library Hi Tech
Vol. 33 No. 3, 2015
pp. 340-355
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/LHT-05-2015-0047
Received 20 February 2015
Revised 30 June 2015
Accepted 15 July 2015
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
The authors acknowledge the support and feedback from the participants in the testing. Funding
supports from the National Social Science Fund of China (No. 12XTQ003) and the Fundamental
Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. CQDXWL-2013-097) are also acknowledged.
produced as of June 2014. The annual growth rate was 13.6 percent. Moreover,
the proportion of cell phone users among cyber citizens increased from 81.0 in 2013 to
83.4 percent in 2014. These users outnumbered traditional personal computer (PC)
cyber users. College students play essential roles among cyber citizens, and a large
proportion of these students use smartphones. Zheng et al. (2014) revealed that
86 percent of college students in China were smartphone owners, and only 2 percent of
these students owned ordinary cell phones without internet browsing features.
To satisfy the demands of patrons who access library services via smartphones and
other handheld terminals, the libraries of several universities across China, including the
Beijing Institute of Technology, South China University of Technology, Chongqing
University, and Peking University, have begun to provide mobile services (Wei et al., 2013).
The service modes of mobile libraries include SMS, WAP, and APP; the latter two are
the main modes employed in Chinese libraries, whereas APP is the main mode used in
western libraries (Wei et al., 2014). Mobile services in Chinese universities have
developed rapidly over recent years; as of September 2011, 14 of the 39 Chinese
universities (35.9 percent) that belong to the 985 Project (Wikipedia, 2014a, b) provide
mobile library services (Li, 2013). According the researchersinvestigation conducted in
August 2014, the number of such libraries has increased to 36 (92.3 percent) since then.
Furthermore, 27 of these libraries have adopted the Super Star Mobile Library product
(Baidu Encyclopedia, 2014).
In September 2013, Chongqing University Library launched its own mobile library
service by adopting a customized product from the Super Star Mobile Library (Baidu
Encyclopedia, 2014). The university library aimed to satisfy the demands of patrons
who wished to access mobile library services via smart terminals. Patrons can access
mobile library services by either visiting a WAP web site or installing an App in their
IOS or Android devices. The mobile services provided by the mobile library App
are mobile OPAC, e-books, digital resource retrieval, digital resource reading,
announcements, personal library (borrowed items and book renewal), ISBN barcode
scanning, book reviewing, resource sharing, digital document delivery, and resource
subscription. Most of the mobile services are similar to the services of the desktop
library web site, except barcode scanning, resource sharing, and resource subscription.
These library services can only be accessed by authenticated users, and the username
and password used for the mobile library are similar to those of the desktop library
web site. Users are authorized through the web service interface. In addition to diverse
mobile services, rich resources are also a feature of the mobile library. Patrons can read
more than 1 million volumes of e-books (30,000 volumes of which are in EPUB format),
browse more than 300 types of newspapers, watch 18,400 sets of videos, listen to 11,034
sets of audio materials, and access 660 sets of open courses. The users of this App
can also obtain digital resources from 78,000,000 journal articles, 154,780,000
foreign-language journal articles, and 3,860,000 pieces of dissertation metadata.
Patrons prefer the mobile library App to the WAP site because of the continuous
popularization of smartphones and the enhanced functions of mobile applications.
Therefore, this research focusses on the mobile library App for Chongqing University
Library (shown in Plate 1). Since its inception, this App has been downloaded and
installed 450 times per month on average and has received many excellent reviews
from patrons. However, this App still encounters several problems. Therefore, the
Technology Department of the library aimed to upgrade the App. In the current study,
researchers intend to determine whether or not the mobile App can be operated stably
on different terminals. Usability studies have been recognized as fundamental in
study of the
mobile library

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