Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shift Again! Libraries in the Near Future - VI

Let's brainstorm for a while. How do the trends in the previous posts affect libraries? What responses should a library take, if any? How do we turn new trends into new wins for libraries?

And, as importantly, what current services fit right into the trends?

Yes, there are barriers, politically, economically, and technically. Why not take a trip into the land of "what if?" If we have learned one thing from Science Fiction, it's that the "what if" can become the "we have" very quickly.

Let's start with Experiences and Hypertasking

What current services that fit the trend of "trying out new things" and "escaping commitment and obligations?" Services that are "owned" or "not owned?"

We have many traditional experiences that are successful, valued, and fit the criteria:
  • Storytime
  • Public Access Internet
  • Programs for all ages
  • The ability to preview a book or magazine before deciding to commit to a purchase
  • The ability to read a book or magazine without committing to a purchase
  • A physical place that the user does not have to "own" completely. Although libraries do come out of their tax dollar, the "ownership" is transparent to the user.
What new and non-traditional experiences might we want to discover? Some possibilities:
  • Storytimes via Youtube so the user does not have to "own" the physical experience?
  • Does the remote catalog provide the thrill of discovery or is it frustrating and clumsy?
  • Is your remote experience as easy to use as an online bookstore?

Hypertasking as Time Management

How are we convenient? How can our customers save time in finding and using library materials and services? Are we convenient enough that users will commit or "own" the experience of using our in-house or remote services? How do we leverage our services and materials so their value trumps the customer's preference to "spend money to save time?"

We have many traditional and newer experiences that are successful, valued, and fit the criteria:

  • Physical locations near retail centers and schools where the customer will be anyway
  • We attempt to give the customer "instant attention" without an appointment. Instant may not be always possible, but it is our goal. We have experience dealing with customer frustration with not receiving instant attention, so we do have coping mechanisms for when we must fail in that area
  • Ask any library user - using the library is a money-saving activity. Whatcom County Library even has a Library Savings Calculator
  • We offer on-line reserves, card registration, and fine payment for convenience and "non-ownership" of a separate library trip.
  • Many libraries have real-time staff available to answer questions from remote users, either by phone, email, instant messaging, or all of the above.
  • We alert the user when a hold comes in

What other conveniences might we want to investigate that would help the user either save money, or decide that coming to the library, in-person or remotely, is better than saving time by spending money to get what they need?

  • Do we have rss alerts that would allow the customer to receive a notification when items about a pre-determined topic and format are available for either reserve or pickup?
  • Do we then have a way for the customer to instantly reserve a copy of the item without entering long library card numbers, pins, and names?
  • Are we alerting users that materials are due and instantly allow them to renew?
  • Do we also have a website that works mobily? An app to make the service work seamlessly?
  • Can we seamlessly deliver materials electronically or physically to their home or mobile device in the fastest way possible?

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