Is your library cutting hours, staff, and resources? In the US this is a big trend among many large and small libraries alike. In recent years the Long Beach Public Library has been shaving hours and services at a rapid rate since 2008. More than ever libraries need to stay relevant and continue to be the central hub of your community’s information consumption.
As far as we can predict the economy is not going to be bouncing back for at least 2 more years and even when it does cities, counties, and institutions are not going back to restore our pre-recession budgets or going back to business as usual. Transformation is crucial!
We have 3 initiatives we feel have made a huge difference when the idea of the typical brick and mortar library is not likely to be open 9 to 9, Monday through Sunday anymore. However our eBranch is open 24/7 anywhere in the world.
Set up Librarian Chat/IM: Meebo Messenger up to recently* was a totally free service allowing libraries to sign up free. Chat with the librarian is a very effective way to maximize your connections with the public using staff at their workrooms and enticing the nextgen of MLS. Librarians who enjoy working behind the scenes flourish in these environments, especially when telephone reference might be going away. Since Meebo was purchased by Google recently we also suggest Mosio as a good alternative.
Create a Mobile App: Mobile apps are hot there is no way around it. This year for the first time our mobile app hits have surpassed all other databases combined. In addition, we have included our Summer Reading Program where patrons can register, review a book and post it on Facebook. Boopsie is our current vendor and has worked with many libraries public and academic. If your staff are techie enough you can have them develop one in-house; but if there is something I would recommend for your library’s next year’s plan is having an app!
Cloud Based e-Books: My last recommendation is adding a basic cloud based e-books service. Not having to download large files (in particular audiobooks) is a blessing for mobile users on limited data plans. Your patrons will notice right away! We have several different vendors that have been very successful and well received by savvy patrons. One particular popular platform is Tumblebooks and Books24x7.
Unfortunately many librarians continue to be skeptical about ebooks and remote services but at this juncture where we are expected to serve at the same level as pre-recession times we have an opportunity to shine and get elected officials to notice the great work of the 21st century library. For further information join the Facebook ALA Think Tank and start innovating!
Francisco Vargas is the Youth Services Officer at the Long Beach Public Library; you can contact him @barriolib
*Meebo was recently bought by Google and will be shutting down July 11.