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Kingsport Public Library launches its own app KPL To Go

Matthew Lane • Oct 6, 2012 at 11:05 AM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Public Library embraced the Internet age years ago and has steadily added features and content to its Web site over the years. Now, the library has taken the next step — this time into the world of mobile devices and apps.

The library has recently launched a new, free application called Kingsport Public Library To Go for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Helen Whittaker, library manager, said the app is currently available in the Amazon.com and Android marketplaces and will be available on iTunes within the next two weeks.

“Everyone lives on their mobile phones these days, so it’s important for the library to be easily accessible whenever and wherever people need access to our staff and rich resources,” Whittaker said. “Our mobile app puts library information just one click away with much faster access than going through a browser.”

KPL To Go does require users to enter their library card number for some of the features, but once that is done users can search the library’s entire catalog of material including children’s material, CDs, DVDs and books — even placing a hold on material and requesting material from other libraries through the Watauga Regional Library consortium.

Users can also view a list of items and renew items they currently have checked out, which is especially handy if you happen to be out of town and realize a book you have checked out is about to be due back. Just fire up the app on your smartphone, renew the book and be on your way.

Another added feature of the app is BookLook Mobile, which lets users scan an ISBN barcode of a book, CD or DVD to see if the Kingsport Public Library has the item in its catalog and if so, place a hold on the item.

“This is an amazing feature,” Whittaker said. “If you’re at a friend’s home or bookstore, you can just scan the ISBN, see if we own it and — if we do — place a hold on it right from your phone.”

Over the past five years, the Kingsport Public Library has greatly expanded its e-book and audio book offerings on its Web site and by offering Nooks to loan to users. In 2010, the library reports 10,166 e-book downloads with 600 through mobile devices. Last year those numbers rose to 17,605 downloads with 3,000 through mobile devices.

Whittaker expects those figures to continue to rise, and with the new KPL To Go app, users can search for and download e-books and audio books straight to their mobile devices.

“Everybody is going mobile, and there’s a high rate of increase every year,” Whittaker said. “We wanted to reach out to the 20- and 30-year-olds who don’t always come into the library. They’re more likely to be of an age that are going to use apps, and this is a good way to provide library services to that target group.”

The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently reported some 85 percent of American adults have a cell phone, and 45 percent have a smartphone. As of early 2012, Pew reports that 58 percent have a desktop computer, 61 percent have a laptop, 18 percent own an e-book reader, and 18 percent have a tablet computer.

Other features of the app include information on the library’s hours and location, with a Google Maps link. If you click on directions, your smartphone GPS program will launch, directing you to the library. There’s a tab to the library’s social media sites (Facebook and the archives blog) and a searchable list of events and classes taking place at the library.

Whittaker said the app also has a “Contact a Librarian” feature, where users can contact library staff by phone, e-mail and now via text.

“You can text us a question. We get reference questions all the time, but so many people are going to texting we felt this was a good add-on to our service, to offer the texting capability,” Whittaker said.

The app has been in the works since May and was created by Boopsie Engineering, which specializes in library apps, Whittaker said. The app was paid for by a $3,500 donation from the Friends of the Kingsport Public Library.

For more information on the app visit www.kingsportlibrary.org or call 224-2539.

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