As we approach the New Year, we often plan great changes, make our resolutions, and look forward to everything in our lives improving, the minute the last few bars of Auld Lang Syne drift into the ether. Positive transformations don’t happen on a wing and a prayer though, whether that is in your personal life or the workplace and it’s no different in a library setting; that’s why we are sharing our thoughts on the best ways to make a difference to your library in 2019.
Identify user pain points
You can’t make improvements if you don’t know what your staff and customers want. By identifying their pain points, you can address issues and hopefully make changes. There are lots of ways to find out what your users think about your services; you could email them a survey, hand it out as they enter the library, ask them what they love and hate about your library at the checkout desk, or just chat to them to find out their opinions. Asking for and acting on feedback is crucial to maintaining a service delivery that is meeting needs and up to date. Perhaps a ‘you asked, we did’ board in the library and online, with explanations when requests are impossible to meet.
So, what are your greatest assets? Your books? Your AV? Your staff? Or your users? Hopefully, you agree that it is all of them and that the best way to physically protect them is through security. RFID tagging and gates will protect your stock, cameras and an alarm system will deter others from harming your staff and users.
Another valuable asset is your space. Whether you are a small school library, a medium-sized public facility or a multi-site University library complex, making good use of your space is key to future-proofing yourself. Designated study spaces are less popular now and offering users the scope to adapt space to their needs is on point, so replace static furniture and fixed IT stations with flexible seating and laptop loaning cabinets.
Don’t lose the technology race
The hardest part of delivering a modern service is knowing which technologies to invest in. It is too easy to part with large sums of money for the latest all-singing, all-dancing library equipment, only to find it is out of date within six months or, worse still it isn’t compatible with any of your other systems and technology. Always shop around and take time to make informed purchases. Ask the experts and then ask your stakeholders. That includes your staff and your users.
What is the best way for your users to interact with you? If you need face to face opportunities to engage then a staff pad to check out items is probably the way to go, but if you would benefit more from being able to get out from behind a desk and spend time with your patrons, then self-serve may be more beneficial. If you offer laptop loans, then automate the process with a cost-effective charging cabinet. Would your users prefer to use an app to locate their book or reserve it?
Make your budget work harder for you
We know budget is the prohibitive factor in taking your library to the next level, but it doesn’t have to be. Making smart changes that give a rapid ROI enables you to put a business case forward to demonstrate the benefits that technology can bring to your organisation. Automation doesn’t equate to a loss of personnel. On the contrary, it is recognised that there is a need to promote libraries and let’s be brutally honest here, reading per se, and freeing up skilled library staff to do that rather than processing returns has never been more critical.
Reducing losses through improved security is another way to safeguard your assets and enable your resources to work harder for you year on year. If you don’t already have RFID security, then you may be pleasantly surprised to discover the rapid ROI it offers.
So, here’s to 2019. Good health, happiness, and well-used, dynamic libraries. Happy New Year!