What’s the Most Visited Part of your Library?

Do you adequately staff the busiest parts of your library? For example, if you have a busy reference desk, you probably make sure there are staff to meet demand.

If your circulation desk gets busy in the afternoons, you probably put another person there to help.

But what if your digital branch is the busiest part of your library? What then?

Here’s what I mean. Take a peek at some annual stats from my library:

  • Door count: 797,478 people
  • Meeting room use: 137,882 people
  • Library program attendance: 76,043 attendees
  • Art Gallery visitors: 25,231 visitors
  • Reference questions: 271,315 questions asked

How about website visits? We had 1,113,146 total visits to the website in 2014. The only larger number is is our circulation count (2,300,865 items).

The busiest part of my library is our digital branch – our website. More visits than meeting room attendance. More visits than library classes and events. More visits than our art gallery.

More visits than our physical building.

I’ll guess your library is similar. So how do we staff for this? I know, I know. Website visits are different than a person visiting the building. Building visitors will most likely stay longer, will need furniture to use, will step on carpet that needs cleaning, and will use computers that need to be maintained. While a digital branch visit might only last for two minutes.

Still … do you see a potential disparity here?

So I’ll ask my question again: Do you adequately staff the busiest parts of your library?

Image by Mervyn Chua

My Trip to the Apple Store

My Poor, Cracked iPhoneA few weeks ago, I dropped my iPhone and cracked the screen (see accompanying picture of my poor iPhone).

I don’t use a smartphone case (I know, I know), but I also haven’t dropped my phone in 8 years. So I was bummed.

Oh well – time to visit the Apple Store! I found out that they’ll replace your broken iPhone screen (for $109+tax). That was cheaper than other smartphone-fix-it places in town, so I decided to go for it (after pieces of screen started flaking off in my pocket).

Here’s what happened during my trip to the Apple Store.

First, finding information on Apple’s website about the repair process was really easy to do. At Apple’s website, you simply click Support, then iPhone, then Repair. Then choose the huge button that says “Screen Damage” (guess I’m not the only one who drops their phone).

I love what this page says: “Accidents happen. Sometimes a screen can get cracked or shattered. We’re here to help.”

After that, I was able to choose Make an Appointment. The only bad thing about that is that there are no Apple Stores in Topeka, KS. So I drove about an hour to the Kansas City area, and visited the Leawood, KS store.

Interrupting my own story for a sec. So far, my “visit” has been online, and it has been excellent. No clicking around, no confused hunting for stuff. Nothing worded weird or lingo-y. Everything made sense, and I was quickly able to follow the trail to my “destination” – the “Make an Appointment” page.

And they reassured me about dropping my phone by saying “accidents happen … we’re here to help.”

OK – back to the story. The in-store experience was just as good.

When I was about 5 feet from the store entrance, I received a notification (see the image) welcoming me to the store, reminding me about my Genius Bar reservation, and telling me what to do next (check in).

Remember my articles awhile back about iBeacon technology? Apple Stores use it, so I was able to see it in action.

On the other side of the door was an Apple Store employee, ready to greet me and help me figure out what to do next (i.e., check in). Once checked in, I browsed around the store for awhile … and then another Apple Store employee was able to find me (via my iPhone – iBeacons in use again).

She walked me through the process, took my phone …. and told me it would be a 2 hour wait (it was a really busy Saturday at the Apple Store!). So I goofed off at a nearby Guitar Center for awhile (and played a sweet bass guitar), then went back to the Apple Store.

My phone was ready, so yet another Apple Store employee brought my iPhone out to me, made sure it worked fine, and then helped me pay, right where I was. I didn’t have to go stand in a line.

My iPhone is back to normal. Yay!

Here’s what I noticed. At the Apple Store, the experience was built around me:

  • I received a reminder about my appointment right at the door.
  • I was greeted by a friendly Apple Store employee.
  • Apple Store staff were easy to find, because they all wore matching blue shirts.
  • I could browse around the store until they were ready, and then they found me.
  • When it was time to pay, I paid right where I was. I didn’t have to stand in a line or go up to a check out counter.
  • The website provided a similar experience – it was designed to move me to the information I needed, when I needed it.
  • And of course, they did pretty much everything using an iPad. Without an attached keyboard.

I think libraries should be more like this! Think through my story, and compare it to your library:

  • Are your customers greeted at the door?
  • Are your staff easy to find, or do they blend in?
  • Do staff approach customers, or do customers have to approach staff and a desk to get help?
  • When ready to check out, can customers do it anywhere, or do they have to stand in a line or approach a desk?
  • How about your website? Is it designed to move customers to the right place at the right time, with the best information? Or is it more of a jumbled mess of information and services?

No, I’m not necessarily suggesting that libraries buy matching shirts for everyone. But I DO think we can learn a thing or two from the Apple Store. And I think we can make our in-library and on-the-website experiences better than they are now.

Serving People Who are Different Than You

Crafting the Customer Experience for People Not Like YouI just read the book Crafting the Customer Experience For People Not Like You: How to Delight and Engage the Customers Your Competitors Don’t Understand, by Kelly McDonald (that is one long title!).

I read it around the same time I attended ALA’s annual conference in San Francisco. There was a lot of discussion about diversity, as there always is at a library conference. Which is awesome.

When we talk about diversity at one of those events, usually “diversity” means minorities, gender, and sexual preference.

This book had a slightly different take on that. Kelly says this (on page 7): “I define diversity as “any way that I can be different from you.” For example, if you have kids and I don’t, we’re likely to have different priorities and face different pressures. Your entire focus shifts when you become a parent, because it has to. Parents think about and evaluate everything differently from people who aren’t parents. But that difference has nothing to do with race, ethnicity, age, or even gender; it simply has to do with whether or not you have children.”

Then Kelly goes on to talk about the customer experience, both physically and online (primarily through social media), and discusses serving “people not like you.” She includes generational differences, women and families, Hispanics/Latinos, different racial and ethnic communities, and GLBT customers.

I really appreciated this slightly tweaked explanation of diversity, since I’m usually the white married dude sitting in a large sea of women talking about creating a more diverse workforce in libraries. Just sayin :-)

So – interesting book. Give it a spin!

App Advisory at the Library

my first screen of appsLibraries have recommended stuff to customers for years. Reader’s advisory. Video suggestions. New music to listen to. Ways to start a research project.

Why not app advisory?

Think about it. What do over half of your customers have? Smartphones. And easy access to the app store. What they don’t have is a trusted app “curator” – someone who can recommend the best apps.

What would that look like? I’ll start us off:

  • Best new apps of the month
  • Popular apps
  • Apps connected to a season (i.e., it’s summer, so apps with grilling suggestions. Yes, they exist).
  • Suggestions on how to use an app
  • And of course, you’d mention library-related apps. Ebook apps. Your ILS app, if you have one. etc.

This also means that we would need to have easy access to apps, and have a small app budget. And a variety of smartphones and tablets – both iOS and Android – to play with.

App recommendation for your community. Could be cool. What do you think?

Mobile-only Use Overtakes Desktop-only Use

I’m still at Computers in Libraries 2015 – great conference as usual!

I also just saw this from Gary Price on InfoDocket, and thought it was worth sharing.

In the US, the number of mobile-only internet users now exceeds the number of desktop-only internet users.

Here’s what ComScore says about this: “While the share of mobile-only users has climbed over the past year to 11.3 percent, the desktop-only population has drastically declined to just 10.6 percent. Of course these numbers also tell us that the vast majority of the digital population (78 percent) is multi-platform and goes online using both desktop and mobile platforms.”

What’s this mean? More of our us are carrying the internet around in our pockets, bags, and hands. We’re in front of small screens more often than we are in front of a desktop computer, which makes sense.

It also means that we need to make absolutely certain that our library and organization websites work on mobile devices. Having a great mobile-friendly website is more important than having it work fine on a desktop computer. Why? Because our customers are in front of the small screen more often, and have access to a small screen more often, than desktop or laptop computers.

For many things, it’s simply more convenient to pick up a smartphone to quickly check something. Not always the most optimal – but it is generally more convenient.

So – how’s your website’s mobile experience? Not too hot? If not, then … it’s time to start working on it!

Photo of my iPhone taken by me