iBeacons and the Library

an iBeaconI’ve shown what iBeacons are, and what they do in non-retail settings. Can they be used in a library setting? Definitely – because some libraries are already experimenting with them!

There are currently two companies in the library industry working with iBeacons (that I know of, anyway):

What are these companies focusing on?

Bluubeam sends out location-based messaging. For example, if you walk into the teens area of the library (and have the Bluubeam app on your mobile device), you might get a message about what’s happening in the teen section that day, or get a message about an upcoming teen event.

So think location-based promotion of events and your stuff.

Capira Technologies does location-based messaging. They’re also working on more personalized info. For example, here’s what they say about circulation notices:

Patrons who have authenticated their account information in your library app can receive notifications about items due that day, items ready for pickup, and much more when they enter the building. Library staff know that patrons often visit the library and forget they have items due that day. Automatically reminding them to stop by the circulation desk and renew them before they leave is a great customer service.

What types of things could you do with iBeacons in a library? Here are some ideas:

  • Event notices that are location-based
  • Promotion of new library services. For example, if a customer walks by your new makerspace, they could receive a message explaining it, and maybe an “ask the librarian” prompt for more information.
  • Building tours!
  • Around-town tours. I’d love to see iBeacons connected to a historical walking tour, for example. This has the potential to be much better than portable headsets, and definitely better than QR codes.
  • Art gallery explanations. We have an art gallery. It might work to have explanations of art pieces or more information about the current exhibit.
  • Shelving notices. What’s on this shelf? Capira goes much further with this idea – “For example, if a library offered a row of shelves with New Releases, a patron could view items released that day using their device and a beacon located on the shelf.”
  • Patron Assistance (again from Capira). Devices can time how long a beacon stays in range. Staff can be notified if a patron spends an excessive amount of time in a specific area or room without moving, possibly indicating they may require assistance looking for items.
  • Beacon Tracking – Anonymous tracking via iBeacons can capture how library customers move around in your building, along with how much time is spent in each area. Retail stores already do this, and then move their products around to where customers gather. Something to think about!

Again – there is potentially a LOT of possibility here. What do you think? Please share!

iBeacon image by Jonathan Nalder

Fun Interview – Check it out!

Angela!I was recently interviewed by Angela Hursh, the Content Team Leader for the Marketing Department at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Angela has a cool new blog called Content Marketing for Libraries.

Go subscribe to it right now!

Anyway … it was a fun interview. Here are the questions she asked me. If you want to see my answers, you have to visit her blog!

The questions:

  1. It amazes me that, even today, libraries have an image of being stodgy and traditional. I think there are so many libraries doing amazing, forward-thinking things. So we obviously have a promotion problem, individually and as an industry. How can we do a better job at spreading the word about the cool things happening in the library space?
  2. What’s the biggest marketing problem libraries tell you they are having right now?
  3. Share your top three tips for improving a library website.
  4. Social media still seems to intimidate many libraries. Can you give three tips for libraries looking to take their social media game to the next level?
  5. You’ve written a book about using social media as a tool to make customer connections. Why is it so important to libraries to connect with their cardholders?
  6. Many library marketers have told me they just don’t have time to do all the things they want to do. You do a lot… you have your full-time job, your blog, your speaking engagements, and your personal life. How do you manage it all? Do you have some tips on time-management?
  7. What’s an emerging technology trend that libraries and particularly library marketers need to pay attention to?
  8. You worked a lot of jobs before landing in the library world… and you’ve stayed here for a long time. What’s so great about working for a library?
  9. What book are you reading right now?
  10. If you could send a message to yourself ten years ago (in 2005), what would you say?

Enjoy!

Picture from Angela Hursh’s Twitter account

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

Communicating with your Community through Media

Twitter Screenshot of library customers sharing photos of the Bibliotheca self-check machines

We’ve been busy at my library! Our huge RFID/Self-check/Carpeting project is pretty much done – yippie!

How did we connect with our community while our building was closed? Through media: local news media and social media channels.

Here are some of the mentions we received in the local news media:

We have a great relationship with local media, so it’s really pretty easy for us to get mentioned in the news (way to go, marketing dept!). Since we were closed for 5 days while we tagged all our materials, it was nice to be able to share that through local traditional media outlets.

We also used our own social media channels to share what was going on through those five days. Here’s one of our videos showing our first customer using our new checkout kiosks:

We made four more videos:

These videos were uploaded to Youtube, and then shared out via Twitter and Facebook. We also created some Vine videos and took some quick “in the moment” pictures that went to Twitter.

Now, our customers are sharing their experience with our new checkout kiosks. The image in this blog post shows two of our customers who took pretty much the same photo, then shared the photos on Twitter (with slightly different viewpoints).

My point?

  1. We’re done – whew!
  2. Gotta have those media connections – both local and social – in place BEFORE your big project. If you don’t have that already, start working on it NOW.

When your Library Building Closes, your Library doesn’t Close

Library Closed signSo my library is closed today. We’re closed from May 1-5 to do a couple of tiny little projects, like:

  • RFID tag almost 500,000 items
  • Install 11 new self-check machines throughout the building
  • retrofit our automated material handler for RFID tags
  • Install new RFID security gates
  • Remove a bunch of DVDs and CDs from lockboxes (and get rid of the lockboxes)
  • Oh, and put in some new carpet too, while we’re at it!

To get all this done, we’re using our staff (because they are awesome), and we needed to “close the library.” But here’s the deal: our building is (mostly) closed, but the library? Not so much. Here’s what I mean:

  • First off, the whole building isn’t closed. You can still use some of our meeting rooms, visit the art gallery, the cafe, or our bookstore.
  • Telephone and chat reference is still open.
  • The digital branch is open – our website, our library catalog, our social media channels are still running.
  • Databases? They’re still available.
  • Ebooks? Yep – still available.
  • Bookmobiles? Still running.
  • Our outreach vehicles? Still going strong.
  • WIFI in the building? Still available.
  • Computers at local community centers (run by the library) are still available.
  • Holds? Still available on bookmobiles and through our book locker in one of the community centers.
  • … and probably some other stuff that I missed.

This actually made signage difficult for us! Some of our signs around the building say “library closed.” And some of them say “library closed, but …” You can see more of our signs here.

So – is the library closed because we closed a building? Nope. Today’s library is much larger than the building.