Becoming a Library Customer – Can we Improve that Experience?

Has your library ever really thought about the experience around becoming a library card holder, or worked to improve it?

At most libraries, when someone gets a library card for the first time, here’s what we do: we give the person their library card. We might also hand them a printed list of either “stuff you can do” or “stuff you can’t do ” (i.e., rules, regulations and circulation policies).

Are balloons released? Does anyone celebrate? Does it usher our new customer into some cool, “members-only” club? Do we follow-up with the customer after 3 months or so to see how it’s going? Nope. For most of us, nothing else happens.

What happens with other types of membership cards?

  • Sam’s Club: a membership card gets you members-only discounts.
  • Airline reward programs: earn reward miles. Use it enough, and you can get seating upgrades and trade in miles for flights.
  • Grocery Store Cards: discounts on store purchases and fuel points.
  • Amazon Prime: free, 2-day shipping, movie and tv show streaming, and access to the Kindle ebook Library.

Now back to libraries. Is there something else we can do with a library card to make it more “membership” friendly? Reword that brochure we give out? Check back with our customers after 3 months to see how they’re doing (remember, we have their email address and snail mail address)?

How about give perks for use? For example, if they check out five books, they get that 3-day express movie for a week?

What do you think? Anyone do something special for library card holders that isn’t just “here’s your card, now go check stuff out?”

Image by Leo Reynolds

How We Post in Topeka

I was recently asked how my library posts so frequently on our blogs. It’s a morphing process – here’s where we are now, and where we’re [probably] going.

Right now, here’s what we’re doing. Our digital branch is a huge priority for our library. We’re one big building and 17 bookmobile stops, and we have to reach a whole county. So we have prioritized reaching out digitally. In fact, our executive director often says “no one can opt out of the digital branch.” It’s that important to us.

How does everyone participate? Some blog, some take pictures or create/post videos. Some of us watch/add content to our outposts like Facebook or Twitter. Others answer texts/IMs/email reference questions.

For blog posting – right now, our guideline is two posts a week per blog/section of the site. Do we always make this? Nope – some areas do, some not so much. It’s a work in progress.

It also factors into our annual job performance reviews (more on this in a bit).

How will this be changing? Right now, we’re in the midst of a pretty major website redesign. We learned lots from our current design and the current way we operate on the back end, and are ready to put some improvements in place.

One improvement will be how we handle web content – here’s our thinking right now. We’ll probably align our blogs more closely with our physical library’s neighborhoods – we’re taking stuff out of Dewey Decimal order and putting them into content areas (i.e., all health-related books go in the Health neighborhood, etc).

Each of those neighborhoods has a team and a team leader … and each has a blog, too. So the blog is that team’s responsibility. We’ll figure out a posting schedule for them, and jointly create some goals/strategy for growing their little section of the digital branch (that’s a part of my job).

We’ll also probably figure out a way to more formally reward those teams for the digital branch work they do. Right now, it’s easy to say “no one can opt out” and “it’s part of our job performance” – but there’s no good, formal way to make that happen.

We’ll need to figure out a better way to say stuff like “yes, Joe wrote  24 posts this year, answered 200 text reference questions, and livestreamed an author event.” And have that somehow count for better scores on an annual review (alright – still need to talk to HR and other managers about this – it’s been mentioned that we need to improve in this area, just not exactly how yet).

The goal isn’t to punish people who don’t do the work (cause most of us already do it) – instead, the goal is to better recognize this great work.

And last – remember, I work in a pretty healthy organization. If our library decides to do something … we do it. If someone’s assigned to do something, that thing happens. Isn’t that how all libraries are [David quickly ducks]?

pic by pallotron