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

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

Ideas from Platform – the wrap-up

My last three posts have been about Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Great book! Go read it.

There were a TON of great ideas on how to build a platform in the book – well worthy of reading, digesting, then figuring out how to adapt those ideas into an organizational, library setting. It can be done!

Here’s what I wrote about:

  1. Building a Wall of Fame
  2. Content is Not About You. Ever.
  3. Is Privacy Really Dead?

Have you read the book? I’ve love to hear what you found interesting. Please share!

Image from Michael Hyatt’s website

Content is Not About You. Ever.

I’m still focused on Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Great book! Go read it.

On page 101, Michael writes this:

“Unless you are a megacelebrity, readers don’t care about you. Not really. They care about themselves. They want to know what’s in it for them. Your personal stories can be a doorway to that, but in the end, the best posts are about your readers’ needs, fears, problems, or concerns. Always ask, “What’s the takeaway for my reader?”

Cool thought. Now apply it to your library’s website, and not just to blog posts. Think about your library’s About Us page, or a page about a specific library service.

Then, ask these questions:

  • What’s the takeaway for my reader?
  • Is there a clear next step for the reader?
  • Is the question “what do I do next” answered?
  • Is that next step at the top of the page, rather than at the end of a humongous chunk of text?

If your website is like mine, after answering those questions … you have a LOT of rewriting to do. Get busy!

image from Michael Hyatt’s website

Website Redesign going live and going Responsive

Well, I didn’t really post much about my library’s website redesign. But next week, we go live with it!

You can check it out now at our beta, pre-launch URL – dev.tscpl.org.

Here’s our go-live process:

  • Work on the site like crazy (we still have a big list of stuff to do!)
  • Today, we posted a head’s up to our customers, and asked them for feedback, too
  • We go live on January 29
  • Then, we’ll continue to tweak things as we notice them for 2-4 weeks.
  • Sometime after the big launch, we plan to have Influx take a peek, to catch stuff we missed.
  • Finally, we plan to do some usability testing to catch even MORE stuff we missed.

So, what’s new and different about our redesigned site? Quite a bit:

  • We went responsive, so one set of code works on all browsers and devices.
  • We have consolidated some of our blogs
  • Really worked hard on our links, our navigation, and directing people to the right content
  • Modern design, modern web fonts, white space, etc
  • On the back-end, we focused on letting WordPress do most of the work, instead of custom-coding. This will make things like sidebar widgets and pages MUCH easier for us to update

And probably much more that I’m missing. So go check it out!