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David Lee King



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

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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!
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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

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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

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Here’s a fun video of my library doing RFID tagging, installing Bibliotheca self-check machines (we’re calling them Checkout Kiosks), hiding the old circulation desk behind a wall, etc.

Created with a Go Pro camera in time-lapse mode.

Fun stuff!

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