Previously we’ve looked at future technologies in libraries. This week guest writer John Garland, digital librarian and independent consultant, helps us look at how libraries are using technology to improve services for customers today. Innovative libraries are using digital tools to:

– Make services easier to use and access

– Inspire and inform

– Help customers learn new skills

Have a read and see which of these you could be adding next to your library.

1.Digital maker labs 

Digital maker labs offer customers the chance to learn and use some of the most cutting-edge technology around. From 3D printers, Computer controlled CNC routers, to hot presses for T-shirts and Laser cutter-engravers, Maker Labs are popping up in libraries all over the UK. While it’s fair to say you won’t see one in every library, chances are your nearest Maker lab won’t be too far away.

Digital Maker labs offer customers the chance to learn and use some of the most cutting-edge technology around. #libraries #librarylife Click To Tweet

Devon’s Fablabs are a fantastic example of the range of technology and activities that are possible in libraries. They offer 3D design and printing, 2D design events for adults and children and work with local businesses to help them prototype new products.

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2. Coding clubs

With digital and IT everywhere in our lives, there’s been a real revolution in how we treat technology. Coding clubs are great because they teach children (and us) how to make and use technology the way we want it. Microbits, a tiny programmable computer designed by the BBC, the Arduino and Raspberry Pi are now being used or loaned out in libraries across the UK to teach children how to code, but also how to solve problems and design solutions for them.

Microbits are now being used or loaned out in #libraries across the UK to teach children how to code, but also how to solve problems and design solutions for them. Click To Tweet

Plymouth Libraries run a range of code clubs from organized Code Club to the organized chaos and digital making of Hello World sessions, where children can play with Raspberry Pi’s Makey Makeys, and LittleBits, get involved in digital making.

 


3. Digital storytelling 

Libraries have always had a love affair with the written word, whether on paper, microfilm, CDROM or web page. Now libraries are working with writers and coders to create new interactive stories where the reader can become immersed and attempt to control the narrative flow.

Now #libraries are working with writers and coders to create new interactive stories where the reader can become immersed and attempt to control the narrative flow. Click To Tweet

Guildford Libraries in Surrey ran a Gothic Story Jam, to encourage people to create art and interactive fiction and celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein and the birth of Emily Bronte. You can see all 46  Gothic Story Jam entries. In addition, the British Library is hosting the Narrative Games Convention in November to bring together developers and gamers with a passion for interactive storytelling.

4. Virtual reality

Allowing people to immerse themselves in a new universe is one of the main reasons why people enjoy reading books and visiting the library. This is where virtual reality comes into play! Many libraries have started offering to their users the chance to play, learn and explore other places just by sitting in the comfort of their local library. At the same time, virtual reality can be used to bring the library closer to the users by creating virtual tours of the library or even virtual workshops and training.

Offer the users the chance to #play, #learn and #explore other places just by sitting in the comfort of the local #library. #librarytechnology #virtualreality #VR Click To Tweet

In the Wonder Lab at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Connecticut, and California State Library, users are getting to play with virtual reality, and even learn how to code entire VR games from scratch!


5. Mobile apps

Mobile apps are a real trend right now, as people have access to their mobile devices constantly. Also, people are spending more time on mobile apps and less time on mobile browsers.  A mobile app can extend the library’s services outside their physical borders and facilitate the interaction with patrons.

Mobile #library apps are a real trend right now, as people have access to their mobile devices constantly. Click To Tweet

An app that offers functionalities such as a library catalogue, interactive library guides, a library virtual tour, an interactive calendar with all the library’s events, the possibility to loan and read electronic books and articles, the possibility to reserve the library’s resources or to pay for some services represent a real benefit for the patrons, facilitating their activities at the library.

To think even further, the library can also use the mobile apps as part of a library service. Nicole Henning, a library mobile technology professional made a list of 50 ideas for creative uses of mobile apps in library services and includes ideas like app workshops, app clubs, augmented reality books, and more so check it out.

6. Open Libraries 

The more open library concept is relatively new and controversial, especially outside Scandinavia. Even so, this combination of staffed and unmanned library services is beneficial to the community and it ensures the need for libraries is fulfilled, especially in smaller communities. Thus, open libraries are being used to extend opening hours and not to reduce staffed hours.

Open #libraries are being used to extend opening hours and not to reduce staffed hours. Click To Tweet

In response to financial challenges, while wanting to improve services to the public, Peterborough Libraries were among the first libraries in the UK to roll out the UK’s first open model of libraries. In our chat with Lisa Roberts, Head of Culture and Leisure at Peterborough City Council, she emphasized that the way in which patrons use the library is changing: “the public consultation revealed that the most valued aspects of libraries are the ability to borrow books, access to information and the possibility to access the library outside of normal opening hours“.

7. RFID technologies 

Lately, as libraries have extended their hours of availability, new forms of self-service solutions have emerged in the form of machines or software for different processes. Tools such as inventory readers, fines payment or reception of returned materials are facilitating the user flow at the library and the staffs’ daily activity.

As #libraries have extended their hours of availability, new forms of self-service solutions have emerged in the form of machines or software for different processes.