As pointed out in part one of our blog post series, there are a few similarities in all the reports that focus on researching the library users and their needs (haven’t read it? You can find it here). We’ve presented the four basic services each library should offer nowadays and now we will continue with five other examples of services users wish to find in a library.
1. A café
Some would say that coffee and books are the perfect combination. The National Archive report highlights that having a ‘café on site’ that offers drinks and snacks is the most commonly cited change that people say would encourage them to use the library more often.
There are some libraries that have strict food and drink policies attached to the library regulations and other libraries that offer some minimal service with the help of vending machines. But why not offer a more extensive service and create a simple food corner? People can enjoy their time at the library while satisfying their basic needs without leaving the building. This way, there are no interruptions in their activity and people can stay longer at the library and the library can have a new source of revenue.
There are libraries that offer the service with the help of volunteers, different organizations or even partner with a local vendor or a famous one. For example, Suzzallo Library in the U.S. recently announced that this fall they will open a new coffee shop in partnership with Starbucks. While maintaining the library’s rich history and legacy, they partner with a well-known coffee provider which could attract a considerable number of people.
2. Other public services
Partnering with a local public institution to offer a mix of community services or with an external organization to add a few more services are two simple ways to fulfill the user’s need for more from the local library.
Also, it is an extraordinary way to transform your library into a community space, where the user can simply come and enjoy a few hours reading, playing games, paying taxes, getting legal assistance, eating and drinking or simply enjoying family time.
For example, DOKK1 has more than 130 registered partnerships with public institutions and companies, offering “an open and friendly environment with a nice cafe and a great playground – and there is always something new going on”, as Rolf Hapel mentions in our interview here.
3. Better IT services
Having access to a wi-fi network is a basic requirement everywhere these days. The desktop computers are somewhat part of a gone era, with more and more people using their mobile devices in their daily lives. Users want to use their own devices inside the library and simply connect to the library’s network or lend a mobile device from the library with no restraints.
Public libraries should adapt to this new change and find a suitable way to offer these services. Take the example of San Francisco Public Library which has a project to help increase computer resources for use by the public. People can borrow laptops for two hours and use them inside the library or take them home with the help of a pilot program: Tech’d out. Laptops can be easily connected to the library’s network and can even print to library printers. Also, the wi-fi service is frequently used as at the Main Library and its 28 branches, 5,638 people access the Wi-Fi network daily.
4. Mobile library
Users want the libraries to be a more integral part of their community and closer to them. One way to do this is with the help of the bookmobile. These are usually motorized vehicles that move around the city and provide library resources such as books, DVD’s, and even computers, toys and leaflets. Although many think that the mobile library is an outmoded service there might be situations where a mobile library can cover a larger area than the normal branch library.
For example, Lincolnshire Libraries in the UK provide public access to the library’s services for the rural communities throughout Lincolnshire. They currently operate 3 large vehicles, visiting 233 different locations on a four-weekly timetable. This way, they can offer access to information even to those that can’t visit the library due to distance or financial reasons.
Here you can find explicit guidelines from IFLA on how to create and implement a mobile library.
5. Library services in other locations
People want to use the library services from other locations as well, be it from a school, a bookmobile, a park, a beach or another library, the proximity of a library service can be also a reminder for the public of the library’s existence. Also, they want libraries to be located in places where people can combine the library service with other activities such as shopping or other leisure activities. An interesting way the libraries get much closer to the users is the “Little Free Libraries” projects that have attracted some attention in the past years. These are bird house-type containers that are filled with books and placed in city parks or other key places in the city. The concept is simple: Take a book, leave a book.
Recently, Aurora Public Library in Canada has announced that they will create seven new “Little Free Libraries” that will be placed in Aurora parks this summer. According to Megan Ellis (Aurora Public Library outreach and programming coordinator), the main objective is to make sure that “even though people might not be able to physically get to a library, they have access to reading materials”.
Just as a reminder, these wishes are not general for all libraries and it all depends on your library’s local community desires. Therefore, a short research is a straightforward way to find out what services users wish to find in a library and why they usually go to a library.
Are there any new services that you have implemented in the library based on your users’ wishes? Let us know in the comments.