Public Libraries in the Digital Age

Public Libraries in the Digital Age | Public Library Division Breakfast | Sari Feldman

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” – Peter Drucker

Identify needs before patrons can articulate them! Look at data to find unmet needs. Evaluate what we are doing, where we are going and what kind of impact we are making on our community!

Read signs and look at trends:

1. Technology growth – high speed broadband, expert staff, welcoming space. Job seekers, egov’t users, tax filings, tag renewals, etc. 82% of adults go online, including ½ of seniors 65+. Mobile use – 88% adults have a cell phone, 46% have a smartphone, with 17% going online mostly with cell phone. Internet is now ‘location aware’ – implications…More people in the world have access to mobile tech than clean water – 96% v. 89%!

“Access to material and technology is essential but insufficient.” Engage people with exceptional self and full-service online (24/7 reference)

Lifeline learning – Examples: ¼ of high school students take an online class each year and Kahn University. Work with local universities – college prep academy to provide GED prep classes and one-on-one tutoring and online classes

Digital Literacy Partnership with local paper to engage in digital content and new online paper using splash page, streaming flat screens and touch tables

2. Digital content transforming libraries – Readers are beginning to prefer ebooks, especially among ‘power buyers’. “How can we enhance the experience?”

Digital Offerings – Zinio and OverDrive. 62% of Americans don’t know we have eDownloads!!! Provide and raise awareness – created an ebrowser to recreate the browsing experience and use QR codes to teach how to download in the library.

Social Chat – talk about books on Thursday nights after work “Night owls” on Facebook.

Interactive Content – Cleveland Museum of Art digitized collection on a giant iPad. Plan a tour from home, dock an iPad to create a tour, or touch screen and get more info about art. At Library, an exhibit is being licensed to the library so patrons can play with content at new library. Public and staff PLAY with CONTENT.

Content Creation – Maker space or digital content creation – learn how to use 21st century tools. Audiorecording studies, video studios, green screen,

3. Civic engagement strengthens communities – Social impact of libraries and how we bring people together. Role of library to strengthen social fabric of community. States with more civic engagement in 2006 saw less growth in unemployment between 2006-2010 (study she cited). Those who are civicly engaged are networked, tend to volunteer more, etc. Library has economic value. “In 2020, the library will be more about what it does for people than what it has for people.” – LJ Example: Third Grade reading guarantee put out by Gov. – at one community they needed an intervention and recruited volunteers to help with 1, 2, 3 read. School now buses kids to library after school to read with volunteers. Expanding the program to other low-attaining neighborhoods.

Be Ubiquitous – be where they are and be convenient – hospital vending, storefront branch at strip mall, and drive up windows (appealing to seniors in winter and parents with kids in car seats). Self pick-up and self-serve checkout and use mobile technology (text messages and QR codes) Mobile is the future! Can our mobile app scan an ISBN and bring up where the item is at the library! Self-check at the shelves – (LOOK UP THEIR APP)

Early Literacy – low tech, but very ‘impactful.’  Play, Learn and Grow Areas in each branch. Learn from children’s museum.

Student Success – Afterschool is busies time in libraries for computer and internet use, as well as visits. Homework help, support traditional school success, but also support new 21st Century Skills.

Workforce Development – Job and Career services in library on a separate web page, plus workshops by staff and meet one-on-one counseling with county workforce dept.

Community Space – New design with community in mind. Community meetings to engage them and involve them in the process (‘tremendous outcomes’ like 2,000 at ribbon cutting and triple visits to building after opening).

Community wanted: Natural Light, Community meeting space, group study, quiet space, cafe areas, early childhoold areas, computer classrooms with glass walls

“Change before you have to” – Jack Welch (with blockbuster video in the background)

Question – how do you come up with new ideas and evaluate them? Clear strategic plan. 1. engage in reading, lifelong reading and civic engagement. Everything in those 3 buckets. Highly collaborative – ideas from partners and strategic plan helps weed through partnerships. Rough Cost-benefit analysis (can’t afford to circulate devices because SO used and it’s not cost effective). Bubble up from staff, pushed down from Director and ‘throw it out there to see if it sticks’ – not risk adverse. Failed idea: Engaged in reading – writer in residence idea by director with a grant and was to live in house, provide public programming and write but couldn’t do programs in library. Didn’t work. 70% success rate.

Question – Expand on ‘if you visit each branch, you will visit a children’s museum’ theme of children’s areas in each library. Exhibits based on developmental concepts – so each library branch focuses on one concept. Early language or hands-on manipulative or nursery rhymes or Sequencing or learn the parts of a car or hand-cranked assembly line. Play airport at branch near airport. Pre-reading and writing experiences at one or early science experiences at another branch. Seek funding for early education – easy place to find special funding. Understand the impact!


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