3D Printers and Libraries in the News

The Chicago Tribune recently interviewed me about 3D printers in libraries (they interviewed a bunch of other cool people too).

The newspaper seems to be making an issue of what you can/cannot/should not print in a library setting, and talked about printing guns, obscene objects, etc using a library’s 3D printer.

Here’s my take – let your customers print, and don’t worry (too much) about special 3D printing policies:

  • My guess – Your already existing customer behavior policy/guidelines probably covers everything you need. So I’m not sure you need an extra-special “3D printer policy.”
  • Printing bad/naughty/dangerous things – Your customers probably won’t be doing this. So stop worrying about those “what if” scenarios. When they do appear, see the above point about your customer behavior guidelines.
  • On the issue of printing 3D guns:
    • Your library probably already has books about making guns (under the subject heading of “gunsmithing”). What’s the difference?
    • A 3D printed gun is a multi-part project, requiring multiple 3D files. Unless the customer has named each file “nefarious gun part #1, 2 and 3″ … you’re not gonna know what they’re printing anyway.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!

Photo by Gastev

Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Five: More Reading on Online First

I’ve come to the end of my thoughts (for now) on developing an online first mentality for your library. Here’s a handy list of the whole series of articles:

Developing an Online First Mentality:

To finish up, here’s some further reading on the idea of creating an online first mentality. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Three: Everything Online

I’ve been talking about developing an online first mentality for your library. In part one, I introduced the concept. In part two, I gave some examples of how it might work in a library setting.

In part three, let’s make sure that everything your library does is represented online. At least, all the parts that customers interact with.

What’s that mean? Think about what your library does for a second. Is everything – programs, events, services, etc. – represented online? Can you sign up for them online? If not – how come?

Sometimes, a library doesn’t represent a service online … because it might become too popular. Seriously. I’ve heard of libraries purposely NOT sharing something online because of capacity issues.

It might be a book group with limited seating. It might be a service that the library couldn’t handle if the service got too popular. Sorta like the In-N-Out Burger secret menu (if it wasn’t shared online) – if you happen to know about it, we’ll do it. We just won’t tell you that’s an option.

There are a few ways to handle those situations:

  1. Consider NOT doing it anywhere. Either promote it and do it well, or don’t do it at all. Maybe you should be focusing staff energy in other areas?
  2. Consider ramping it up. Gina Millsap, my library’s CEO, likes to say that we “organize around the work.” So if there’s more work to be done in a certain area, we shift staff to go do that. You could also hire more staff – if the service is truly popular and worthy of that type of investment (and, of course, if the powers-that-be say yes to that pricey request).
  3. Consider creating an alternative. Back to the book group idea for a second. My library does book groups. If more people want to start a book group, we have a cool service called Book Group in a Bag. We stuff 10 copies of a book in a bag, along with some “how to run a book group” instructions, and let customers check it out … and start their own book groups.

SO can you represent everything your library does online? I think so – get busy!

Photo by Steve Rhodes

Developing an Online First Mentality, Part One: What IS Online First?

I’ve been thinking about the whole “mobile first” strategy for websites, which makes a lot of sense. That’s the idea that, when designing a website, you make it work on mobile devices first.

Why does it make sense? These days, many of your customers are carrying a web browser around with them, on their smartphone or tablet. If they aren’t, they will be soon. So it makes a lot of sense to design a website to work on mobile browsers.

As I’ve been thinking and reading about Mobile First strategy, I’ve come across another idea that works in a library setting, too – the idea of creating an “online first” strategy.

What is Online First?

Online First is the idea that everything your organization does should have an online component first – before the in-person or physical component. Or at the least, the online parts should be as important as the in-person component.

Oh yeah – like that’ll work, David.

This concept actually makes a lot of sense for many businesses. Some examples:

  • Journalism. Many news organizations have, indeed, switched to an online first model for news reporting. New stories are immediately published online and distributed by websites and social media. Then the news organization publishes the best or most interesting stories into their print or broadcast versions. More on that here.
  • Retail businesses. Where will you find, say, the whole product line from the Disney Store? In their physical store? Nope. their full product catalog can be found online. Plus, in the online store, you’ll find product reviews, ratings, etc. In the physical store, you just find (maybe) the product on the shelf. I wrote about this (sorta) back in 2009.
  • Restaurants. Ok, you can’t drink an online cup of coffee or eat an online hamburger. But you CAN read all about the the food you’re planning to purchase online – nutritional info for the hamburger, or the origin and background and tasting description of the coffee beans. Want that “secret” In-N-Out Burger menu? It can be found online.
  • Customer service. Sometimes, you need to talk to a person about a product – how to assemble it, how to return it, or a billing issue. Does that always have to be a “physically in-person” interaction? No, and actually that’s sometimes impossible at the physical store. Why? Because the physical store closes at 9pm, but you might need that answer at 2am! Online, you can possibly talk to a person via chat. If not that, it’s very possible to still watch an assembly video, download instructions, or read some detailed information on a support page.

So that’s the idea, anyway. In my next post, I’ll give some thoughts to how this idea might work in a library setting.

Photo by the European Parliament

Teaching Customers to Copy your DVDs and other Nefarious Ideas

I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile now, and was recently reminded of it through a post on the ALA Think Tank Facebook Group (have you joined yet? Good stuff there).

The discussion at ALA Think Tank was about using copy machines to do illegal things, and someone mentioned the sign many libraries place around the copy machine, reminding customers to please not break the law when using the copy machine.

And that reminded me about this post, which is really just a question: Why don’t we teach our customers how to rip our DVDs, download our music CDs to iTunes, or copy our audiobooks to their favorite digital listening devices?

Hang with me a sec here. Parents, think about how your kids listen to music. They might not own a CD player. They listen using iTunes or Google Play (or some similar smartphone app).

How about movies? My family usually streams Netflix movies or rents from iTunes. We DO have a DVD player and use it once in awhile. If the DVD is scratched, it will skip in the player … but sometimes ripping it, dumping it into iTunes, and watching it using my AppleTV fixes that problem.

And what if we’re going on a trip, and want to watch 3-4 movies in the car? We don’t own a portable DVD player … but we DO own an iPad.

Yes, you can guess what we do.

And that relates directly back to your library, because a growing percentage of your customers listen and watch media using mobile devices.

That growing reality makes me wonder if we should teach customers how to use software tools like iTunes or Handbrake? With a disclaimer attached, just like in the days of the heavily used library copy machines – “Here’s how to use the copy machine. Just don’t do anything illegal” (knowing full well what some of those customers were doing).

What do you think? Should we:

  • Teach customers the best way to copy our library content to their favorite digital listening/viewing device (and teach them how to delete it when they’re done, too)?
  • Continue to offer easily downloaded CDs and DVDs, and just assume some customers will figure out how to burn the discs?
  • Something else entirely?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Image from slipperybrick.com