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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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“.
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.
A great example of how libraries can design their own solutions comes from Suffolk Libraries. Suffolk have developed their own self-service machines in collaboration with Dootrix . Designed with the help of UX experts, the new self-service software is cheaper and extremely easy to use.
8. Cloud printing, copying, and scanning
The digital era has been directly affecting home printing. People no longer need to print pages in large quantities. This is where libraries can come in handy for people who don’t want to keep a printer at home any longer, or whose printer has broken. Cloud printing supports mobile working and traveling and means that people can work wherever there is a library rather than needing a traditional office space.
It can also attract different kinds of people who might not previously have used a library. Cloud printing has become commonplace in libraries because it gives users the ability to utilize their smartphones, tablets, and laptops to print.
Randers Libraries in Denmark implemented Princh’s cloud-based printing solution in early November 2015 so that their users can easily print and pay from their own devices. In our chat with Hans Nielsen from Randers Libraries he highlights that “the service has benefited everyone. Users don’t need to sign up in the system and as the payment method is electronic, library staff does not need to handle payments or deposit money in the bank.”
Another great example is Connecticut’s Westport Library, which recently acquired two robots, Vincent and Nancy, that will be used to help teach coding and computer-programming skills. Yes, it is a whole new level of social interaction, but it’s a very good way to get people’s attention and raise their interest in technology and most importantly in the library.
10. Kinetic bikes in the library
Want to add more innovative and unique services to your library? Offer users the opportunity to charge their phones, and exercise while using the library.
Libraries in Essex Libraries may have found the answer by installing Kinetic bikes in their libraries. These clever bikes charge your phone while you work or download an eBook to your device. There’s another example here from Warwick University who have installed four of these pedal-powered chargers in their library.
Single Sign On allows customers to sign into all the valuable electronic resources with just one sign in. Developed in partnership between Jisc, Libraries Connected (formerly SCL) and all the major UK Library software companies. Single Sign On gives fast and secure access to all the amazing content libraries purchase for their customers and you won’t find on the internet.
With a decline in DVD loans and the popularity of streaming TV and film, streaming for library customers is already a reality and one that may well become common in the years to come. West Vancouver Libraries are offering customers access to Netflix and State Library of Queensland offers free access to 30,000 films through the streaming service Kanopy. Library members can stream ten films or episodes per month.
This has been just a glimpse of some of the fantastic digital projects going on around the world. Libraries have always been about sharing knowledge, culture and skills and these new digital services are just one way of engaging with customers and providing them with services to help them and make their lives easier.
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Independent consultant for libraries
John Garland is a librarian with over 15 years’ experience in public libraries and worked with Libraries Connected to design Single Sign On. He is an independent consultant for libraries helping them develop their digital strategies and works with Jisc on the Single Sign On project. You can learn more about Single Sign On at http://www.librariesconnected.org.uk/page/single-sign or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. and contact him direct at johngarland.org