Cummings, Merrill, and Borrelli’s Inquiry into Small Screen Use by Academic Library Users: Timing is Everything




A Review of: Cummings, J., Merrill, A., & Borrelli, S. (2010). The use of handheld mobile devices: Their impact and implications for library services. Library Hi Tech, (28)1, 22-40.


Objective – The authors undertook this study to understand the relatively new phenomenon of handheld computing and the use of small-screen devices among academic library users. They sought to determine if users would be inclined to search the online library catalogue on their devices and, by extension, if there would be a growing demand for small-screen compatible library services.

Design – Online and paper surveys were used with both closed and open questions. Respondents included students, faculty, and staff at Washington State University (WSU).

Setting – Washington State University Library, Pullman, Washington, United States of America. Subjects – The survey was open to any user of the Washington State University (Pullman) Library. The 206 respondents included 126 (61.2%) undergraduates, 26 (12.6%) graduate or professional students, 32 (15.3%) WSU employees, and 15 (7.3%) faculty members. Methods – A survey was distributed both online and on paper. The online version used and participation was solicited through various social media. It was open for three months during the Spring semester, 2007. The paper version was distributed to all library users on two days in June 2007. Eighty-four online and 122 paper responses were received.

Main Results – Most of the respondents (58.4%) who owned a personal digital assistant (PDA) or Web-enabled cell phone (WECP) indicated that they would search the library catalogue on a small-screen device. Responses to the open question “How would you use the OPAC [online public access catalogue] if it was available on a PDA or WECP?” were mixed, both positive and negative. The positive responders noted the possible time savings associated with the availability of more information on their devices. The negative responders noted the cost of data, the annoyance of public phone use, and the complex format of the current catalogue that would not transfer to a small screen.

Conclusion – The authors cited the growing usage trends in handheld devices, along with the willingness of current owners to use their devices, to predict an increase in usage of small screen searching. They speculated that further research should investigate how small screens would be used and what would that experience look like, rather than if patrons would use them.


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Author Biography

Catharine Bomhold, University of Southern Mississippi

Dr. Catharine Bomhold is an Associate Professor in the School of Library and Information Science




How to Cite

Bomhold, C. (2018). Cummings, Merrill, and Borrelli’s Inquiry into Small Screen Use by Academic Library Users: Timing is Everything. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 13(1), 47–56.



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