I want to begin with two simple statements: technology should deliver convenience, and not all technological change needs to be radical to be effectual. With that in mind, here are some small tech changes that can make a big impact at your library.
Use Technology to Expand an Existing Offering
A small, further investment in a technology can result in a large boost to access. Libraries have long held an important role in advancing digital equity in our communities. Patrons rely on library-provided internet access for learning, work, and entertainment. Unfortunately, that access can be lost when the library’s doors are closed. While not a cure-all, the relatively inexpensive addition of one or more outdoor access points can instantly extend your wireless footprint out to the library grounds, and provide 24/7 WiFi availability. Small investment, big return.
Modernize Your Communication
Email, text, and chat have been convenient and widely-used modes of communication for a very long time. Despite this, I have found them to be underutilized by many libraries with regards to their patron-facing services. Take stock of your library’s operations and identify where an email option would be a commonsense alternative to an in-person transaction: it could be the library card application process, applying for a job, etc. Such alternatives increase convenience without increasing costs!
Mobile devices now account for the majority of internet traffic. Adding a “text us” option can deliver a real boost to reference transactions, it accommodates smartphone users, and is generally affordable. While chat widgets are widely available, the anticipated growth of AI-powered library chatbots may provide cause to postpone a decision until this market settles. Ultimately, this is a small financial investment that can open your reference services to a much wider audience.
Leverage Technology to Empower Your Patrons
In a time of rapid change, it’s essential that we remain responsive to the needs of our users! Google Forms are a free way to create custom patron surveys, program assessments, and other vehicles to solicit patron feedback. They can be embedded/linked to on your website, placed on an iPad (or other device) at points of service within your building, or sent via library e-newsletter, among other delivery methods. It costs nothing to listen, and what you learn can help you craft a more perfect library experience for your users.
Until Next Time!
Take some time to evaluate your library’s operations, and identify where and how you can improve the patron experience with a little technology. You may be surprised by how many big opportunities you discover once you start thinking smaller!
I hope you’ve found this post useful. If you’re looking for a speaker for your event feel free to reach out! I cover emerging technologies, staff training, library tech trends, tech on a budget, change management, and more!
Consider adding Best Technologies for Public Libraries: Polices, Programs, and Services to your reading list. This book is a one-stop shop for libraries looking to add the most popular technologies and create best practices for their use.