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.

 

Two Branches at the Same TIme

Ever thought about this? With two physical, brick-and-mortar library branches, you have to use them one at a time. Can’t use both at once!

But with a digital branch, you can. You can be in the physical library building, and can use the digital branch at the same time. You might be reading an article, checking out an ebook on your mobile device, asking a question via live chat, or wandering the stacks with smartphone in hand, looking for a book.

But you can use both. At the same time. And people do.

So make sure to design your physical branches – the building, and especially the signage – with your digital branch customers in mind. What are some things you can do to help digital branch customers while they’re in your physical building?

  • Lots of “we have free wifi” signs
  • Signs by the physical books, talking about your new ebooks or databases
  • Smartphone recharging stations
  • Comfortable seating, with power nearby
  • Mentions of social media (signs on the doors, etc)

Hmm … good signage, comfortable seating, and power. What else? What am I missing?

Image by TheeErin

Save your Community Money … and Announce it!

The photo in this post is from a gas station at a local grocery store. They put up a sign at the gas station showing how much money they saved a community via their fuel points program.

How cool would that be to use one of those library value calculators, add everything up for a year, and share how much money the library has saved the community – in books, videos, and events attended?

For some libraries, this could be a really BIG number!

Why do this? I can think of a few reasons, including:

  • It puts a positive spin on library budget discussions
  • It’s a nice way to share what the library does
  • It changes the conversation from an internal library one (i.e., how many books were checked out) to a community-facing, “why should I care” one
  • It’s a handy way to share the value of a library without having to explain why all those circulation statistics and customer count numbers matter

Has anyone done something like this before? If so, did it work? I’d love to know – please share!

Make your Stuff Obvious

This sign was at our local shopping mall. Like any good blogging geek, I stopped and took a picture of it – to the chagrin of my kids, I’m sure (“Mom – Dad’s taking pictures of signs again!” – eye roll!)

But the sign made me think of a few things that I thought I’d share:

  1. The sign is nicely done – large, easy-to-read words.
  2. Just an interesting side-note – the sign’s in the shape of a smartphone. A few very short years ago, a phone that did wifi wouldn’t have made any sense. But we all easily get it now, don’t we?
  3. The message is clear, the service is obvious, the sign is hard to miss. You know exactly what they’re advertising.

Contrast that with the average wifi sign in a library. In most of our libraries, we make little, tiny, dinky-winky signs that say “wifi.” Usually provided to us by our wifi vendor. If we have signs at all [hmm… I wonder what our wifi signs look like? I’ll need to check].

But at the mall … where they really want you to stay awhile … the wifi sign is HUGE. This sign was almost as tall as me, folks! And right out in the walkway, standing close to the food courts (one place people would possibly use wifi for an extended period of time).

What do they want you to do at the mall? Stay awhile. Eat some food. Use their free wifi. And buy more stuff!

Now translate that to a library. What do we want our customers to do? Stay awhile? Eat more food (if you have a cafe)? Read/watch/listen to/download more content? Ask us questions? Attend our events? Probably all of those things (though I’ll bet most of us don’t spell those goals out quite like that).

Define what it is you want your customers to do, then make your branding, your promotion, your signage – what you want people to do while engaging with you – make it obvious.

Skimp on the Details

Crosswalk signThe photo in this post is a crosswalk sign in Topeka. Take a good look at all those instructions …

Also note that the crosswalk sign talks to you, too. When the light is red, you are told every few seconds “Do Not Cross the Road” or something like that.

And then when the light turns green, and you get that little “walking dude” icon that means you can cross the street, there’s another voice that starts talking. This voice sounds … um … let’s just say he has a bit of a rural accent, and he tells people wanting to cross the street something to the effect of “it’s now ok to cross the road, and to look both ways” … or something like that (I have yet to actually understand what the guy says).

My favorite part of the crosswalk sign is the arrow with the “To Cross Push Button” instructions. The arrow makes it look like you actually need to cross the street to push the button … in order to cross the street. Hee.

So … doesn’t everyone know how to cross the road when there’s a crosswalk sign? I mean really – you push the button and wait for the signal to walk … right? This is pretty simple stuff, and it really doesn’t need four lines of text and two different voice recordings to help you successfully get across the road.

Guess what? Sometimes, we do the same thing to our customers. Too many instructions. Signage with detailed explanations. Websites that provide way too many details about a library service.

How about our library catalogs? There might be too many details there, too. For example, I just looked up “The Hobbit,” and found this line of text:

Description: 271, [4] p. : ill., maps ; 21 cm.

I can hear our customers now – “Oh great! This book is 21 cm tall  – just what I was looking for!” Not to mention the full MARC record that’s attached. Our customers are just clamoring for that.

What do our customers want? Well – the book. Probably with a simple button that says “check out now” or something similar. At this point, many of our customers are pretty familiar with the “add to cart” idea of a shopping website, and checking out something on a library catalog website is pretty similar.

Here’s your assignment – take a look at a set of instructions for something your library does, and see how much detail you can remove while still making those instructions useful. I’ll bet you will be surprised!