“Well duh David, of course we can – we have a catalog…” you might say. Hmm…
If I walk into a library today, here are some things I can do there:
- check out a book
- read a book or magazine
- take notes and do research
- put a public PC on reserve for later
- pester the reference librarian with questions
- check stuff out when I’m done
- attend a training session or a fun program
Just a normal day at the library, right? How about at your library’s website? If your website is a “traditional” library website, there’s not much actual stuff to do. A traditional website exists mainly to point you to “the real thing” – the actual building and the catalog (in many cases anyway – not everyone is automated, yet!).
Anyone see a problem with that? The library can be much larger than its physical building, and considerably extend its reach without the building as the main focal point for library services.
Let’s look at some non-library examples for a sec. What are other businesses and organizations doing? Amazon? You can’t visit the “real thing” – it only exists online. Ebay? Same way. Barnes & Noble? Their “real place” exists both online and physically.
How about something boring like Sears? I can shop Sears anywhere – I don’t have to visit the “real thing” – because they’ve made their website a place where I can actually do “real stuff.” And in some cases, using the website is actually better than the “real thing” (for example, shopping for undies or pjs can be embarrassing in person – but online? Not so much). Businesses have turned their websites into the “real thing.”
So, back to your organization. Does your organization primarily exist in the brick and mortar world? And don’t tell me “well, yeah David, we have a website.” That’s not good enough anymore. What can you actually DO at your website?
Yes, in the library world, you probably have a library catalog in place, and some databases. Maybe an “email a question” service (“We’ll get back to you within 48 hours (excluding holidays and weekends)” – quote from a library’s Ask a Librarian service).
But what else? Can you browse your collection? Probably not. Can you subscribe to feeds, so you can get updates whenever a page is updated with new info? Maybe. Can you instantly contact a librarian to ask your burning question or get clarification through IM, chat, email, or Twitter? Probably not.
What if I want to start a conversation or attend a program? Can I do that at your digital branch?