With nearly 3 million books that span much of the four floors and 400,000 square feet of the Knight Library, navigating through the numerous shelves, walkways and rooms can be a challenge.
However, with the introduction of a revised University iPhone application, the hassle of finding books and locating essential resources may become a thing of the past.
With the help of the Knight Library, the University’s InfoGraphics Lab unveiled its latest changes to the University’s application that can now guide students in real time to the resources that they need and guide visitors through the campus on five types of specific walking tours that include sustainability efforts, trees, artwork and historic buildings.
“I think a lot of people have always wanted this kind of functionality,” said Sara Brownmiller, director of library systems. “On one level, with modern computer systems, it’s possible to do that.”
Unlike similar smartphone applications at other universities, such as those found at Stanford University or Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ken Kato, the University InfoGraphics Lab’s assistant director, said the University’s iPhone application stands out because it not only provides exact locations of library resources, but actively guides students to the resources that they are looking for. The application does this by using compiled Geographic Information Systems data to map the interior of the library in real time and highlight the sections and shelves where specific books and other resources are located.
“We really wanted to show off what we could do with interior mapping,” Kato said. “Probably one of the primary parts of a University experience is the library, so we really thought the challenge would be fun.”
In all, Kato said nearly 100 hours were dedicated to updating the Knight Library on the University’s iPhone application. However, the work did not stop there. In fact, Kato explained that students in the InfoGraphics Lab are updating information on the smartphone application daily, such as specific rooms and buildings, so that users are always provided with the most current information.
“I really think this does help to solve the problems that we’ve had in the past,” Brownmiller said. “I work with the reference desk a lot, and students routinely ask how to find the books that they need. Now, instead of only providing general directions, students can now get the exact location of their book and how to find it.”
Apart from the applications new features, the revised application has received a lot of attention. In addition to the 20,000 downloads of the first version of the University’s iPhone application, the current version received nearly 11,000 downloads during the first week following it’s release. Because of the application’s success, Brownmiller said the University libraries are actively working with the InfoGraphics Lab to also map other libraries on campus, including the law library.
“We’re extremely proud of the final product,” Kato said. “When we got into this business last year, we looked at other campus apps and looked at really good ones and set them as the bar. We said, ‘We’ve got to beat them.’ I think we beat them last time and through the new functionality, we’re that much more upfront. I can say with confidence that it’s the best campus app anywhere.”
Within the next few months, Kato said the InfoGraphic’s Lab will be working on an updated University application that is Android-compatible and is set to be successfully released by winter term.