Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Five: More Reading on Online First

I’ve come to the end of my thoughts (for now) on developing an online first mentality for your library. Here’s a handy list of the whole series of articles:

Developing an Online First Mentality:

To finish up, here’s some further reading on the idea of creating an online first mentality. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Developing an Online First Mentality, Part Four: Where does your community hang out?

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

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

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

Your Website is Already Mobile

Your website is already mobile. It just might not be delivering the best experience.

Jeff Wisniewski, in his presentation on responsive design at Internet Librarian 2013, said this – “All of your content is now mobile, so be kind.”

What did Jeff mean? Probably this – If your organization has a website, it’s already “mobile” … because people with smartphones can get to it using their smartphone web browsers.

It’s a done deal.

Well – sorta done. Your website might be available to mobile users, but is it usable? Does it adapt or respond to different screen sizes? Is the content written to be quickly scannable on a mobile device, or is it a huge river of text?

Here’s a question for you: What kind of experience are you providing your mobile customers? Is it good or bad? Have you ever thought about the mobile web user experience? If your organization is providing a less-than-stellar” mobile web experience, what are you planning to do to improve it?

I’d love to know!

Pic by Robert Scoble