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The next generation of public library services

About half of all Americans who are 16 and older use a public library at least once in a 12-month period. A recent report from the American Library Association (ALA) found that in a year’s time, 1.5 billion people visit public libraries in person, and 92.6 million access the more than 4 million public programs offered.

Today’s libraries serve up so much more than books and free Wi-Fi. They are cultural centers where patrons go to learn about the arts, literature, music and more. They are community meccas where members gather to participate in events, do-it-yourself courses, technology classes and the like. And they are a helpful resource for research, financial advice, tax preparation and planning—even free legal guidance. The sky is the limit when it comes to the benefits public libraries afford their patrons. But as technology evolves, so does the need for libraries to expand their service offerings. This e-newsletter will showcase ways some libraries have enhanced their service lines to keep pace with the next generation of library connoisseurs.

  • Mobile apps: Consider expanding your service line with a mobile app. A mobile app can allow patrons to access catalogs, check out e-books, or reserve or renew a book from their smartphone. But they can be designed to do much, much more. Consider developing an app that allows patrons to check out a book using their smartphone. Or one that can locate a book within the library using GPS technology.

    Of course, a mobile app is only as good as its promotion, so let your patrons know it’s available. Imprint bookmarks with a quick response (QR) code for easy download. Once downloaded, encourage patrons to use the app once it’s downloaded with rewards, such as book lights or e-reader jackets.

  • Try before you buy: “Technology petting zoos” are popping up in libraries, giving patrons hands-on access to a variety of tablets and e-readers. A librarian is usually available to explain how the devices work and to detail the key features and differences among them. This service allows people to try before they buy and provides the library with a chance to promote its online services. Encourage members to participate in your try-before-you-buy program and reward those who do with a book key tag or pencil.
  • Online research services: Several libraries offer an “Ask the librarian” service to patrons needing research assistance, a book recommendation or help finding needed library resources. Live chat or text is helping those in need connect with actual librarians, sometimes even around the clock. If your library offers this service, be sure to promote it. Print contact details as well as available hours on a combo magnifier/library card pouch or Book Tote and distribute at the circulation desk.

Try one or all of the ideas above to connect your patrons with the services they love.

Zickuhr, Kathryn, Kristen Purcell, and Lee Rainie. “From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers–and beyond.” Pew Research Center Internet Science Tech RSS. N.p., 13 Mar. 2014. Web. Retrieved 04 Sept. 2015.

“ALA Library Fact Sheets.” American Library Association. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 04 Sept. 2015.

Edwards, Julie Biando, Melissa S. Rauseo, and Kelley Rae Unger. “Community Centered: 23 Reasons Why Your Library Is the Most Important Place in Town.” Public Libraries Online. N.p., 30 Apr. 2013. Web. Retrieved 04 Sept. 2015.

Meehan, Meagan. “The benefits of Public Libraries.” Examiner.com. N.p., 22 Sept. 2013. Web. Retrieved 04 Sept. 2015.

Zickuhr, Kathryn. “Innovative library services ‘in the wild.’” Pew Internet Libraries. N.p., 29 Jan. 2013. Web. Retrieved 04 Sept. 2015.

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