Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Four: Where does your community hang out?

Finishing up with this series. In this post, let’s talk about something simple that relates to adapting an online first mentality.

Where are your customers?

Guess what? For most of the day, they are not in your library building.

Darn! So where are they? At school, at home, at work, in their cars, exercising, eating, etc. But NOT hanging out with you, at the library.

And that’s ok and normal, obviously.

But here’s the thing. You have access to your customers … even when they aren’t in your building.

In fact, it’s quite possible you have BETTER access to them when they aren’t in your building. Here’s what I mean – how many of you distribute your library staff throughout the public area of the library, like a store, to help people at the point of need? Not too many of us. For most of our customers, it’s very easy to visit the library, browse for a book, check it out, and leave without ever having to interact with library staff.

But online, your customers are within reach:

So … if the majority of your customers are online instead of in your library … where should you be? What’s that look like in terms of staffing? In terms of events and classes and programs? In terms of your collection and reference tools?

Definitely something to think about!

Photo by David Goehring

My Slides for Los Angeles Public Library

Last week, I visited the Los Angeles Public Library‘s central library, and spoke as part of their Innovation Leadership Program. So I re-worked my Improving the Customer Experience presentation and re-did all the slides.
Check it out!

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

Nice Chicago Tribune article about Using the Digital Library

I was recently interviewed by Greg Karp at the Chicago Tribune about digital libraries – ebooks, streaming videos, downloadable music, websites, etc.

Karp’s angle with the story is that a modern library can save people money. Why buy when you can borrow?

It’s an interesting read, and could have a couple of uses for you:

  • Different marketing angle (saving money, using free stuff, etc)
  • Showcasing the different types of offerings at a modern library (3D printers, ebooks, downloadable music, and … cakepans!)

Best part of the article? At the end, Karp mentions the value of librarians:

Perhaps the most valuable resource in any library is a librarian, who can help you find what you need. Nowadays, you might get that help electronically, via email, chat, text message and, increasingly, social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Anyway – enjoy!

Logo from the Chicago Tribune

Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Two: In the Library?

In my last post, I introduced the idea of an online first mentality, and gave examples of how modern businesses use this idea.

OK. That makes sense for those guys. But what about a library? Can Online First work there?

I think so. Not in the news organization, “publish online first” way, but more like the restaurant business, “here’s the rest of the story” way.

How, exactly?

Make sure that whatever you do has an online component, and that that component is created at the same time as the physical service or tool or area. Here are some examples:

Storytime. If you are creating a storytime program (or already have one), also develop some online storytime videos, uploaded to Youtube. This serves a few purposes:

  • It gives you storytimes for your digital branch.
  • It provides storytimes for your community that can be played any time – before the library is open and between programs, for starters.
  • It showcases the storyteller and the service. If a school or daycare wants to know what you do, you can easily provide a link to the video, so they can “try before they buy.”

Reference. Only so many people can line up at the reference desk. And that’s not really where most questions begin. That’s why many libraries also offer chat, text, email, and telephone reference services. You might also think about offering similar services in your social media channels (i.e., Facebook or Twitter). Easy to set up, and most of you have one or more of these services. Now do some targeted promotion of those services, and see what happens.

Your catalog. You have already adopted an online first mentality with the catalog (though you probably haven’t thought about it that way yet). The only way to access your library catalog … and your whole collection of stuff … is through your online catalog. In-person shelf browsing is fun, but it never leads to the whole collection, because a bunch of your stuff is checked out. Want access to everything the library owns? You have to go online to do that.

Ebooks. Another no-brainer. The only way to access that collection is … online.

Events, programs, classes. Let’s say you’re planning an author talk at the library. The actual event is an in-person thing. Why not also create a short video interview that can live on after the event? It showcases what you do and offers your community an extra glimpse at the author, too. We did this with Jim Richardson, a National Geographic photographer – it’s one of our most popular Youtube videos.

Can an online first mentality work in a library setting? I think so, and I think at the least, we should have a representation of all we do online … which is exactly what I’ll talk about in my next post!

Photo by Penn State