Library 2.0 – 10 Ideas for the Library of the Future (and Now)

I attended a speech at the Allen County Public Library yesterday by Stephen Abram, noted Library 2.0 speaker and Vice President of Innovation and Chief Strategist for SirsiDynix. It was about Library 2.0 and the role of libraries in the future. And it got me thinking about things I’d like to see in the future at libraries. I started jotting down ideas on the edges of the magazine I was reading and realized that I had quite a few ideas.

And a lot of these are ideas that libraries could implement now.

1. I had a library fine that I needed to pay while I was at the library, but I couldn’t find my library card since I don’t use it everyday. So my first idea was for libraries to give patrons not only a card, but one of those little tags you can put on your keyring. I have several of these already, from Blockbuster, my Kroger card, my CVS card and others. I don’t use these everyday, but when I need them, they are right there on my keys.

2. Along these same lines, I would especially like to be able to pay my library fine online so I didn’t have to go to the library just to pay a fine. Being able to pay by credit card would be good and for me especially, I’d like to also be able to pay via paypal. Since the libraries are now online, it seems a logical next step.

3. When I was young, our library had bookmobiles that drove around and had stops where we could go and checkout and return books to the bookmobile. I remember walking to the end of our street each week and visiting the bookmobile. It allowed many kids from my neighborhood to check out books that would not have otherwise been able to. We could reserve books and the bookmobile would bring them for us and they also had several of the more popular books in the bookmobile.

I would really like to see libraries bring back this practice. There are so many people who don’t have a car or kids whose parents don’t take them to the library and this is a great asset for them. Alternatively if this isn’t feasible, perhaps libraries could open sub-branches in several locations like stores that mostly just allow people to pickup books that they reserved and return books. They could only be open say once or twice a week for a couple of hours. I think the value of being able to walk to a library outlet is immense.

4. Stephen mentioned in his speech that even though many libraries have web access, students are frequently not near a computer but they always have a cell phone and are used to text messaging. Libraries should have a mechanism to allow people to text message them. And I think having live chat access is also something libraries should look at. A good example is the web hosting service BlueHost. On their home page they have a large button that says “Live Chat” and when clicked, takes you right to their chat window where you enter the department you want to contact, your name and your question.

Libraries could have a “need help?” button (or something like that) on their website that would allow people to access their FAQ, blogs, knowledgebase, write an email, IM the library, call the library, instant chat, text messaging information and all the different ways that people now use. And they should be able to receive the information back in a format of their choice.

5. Libraries could set up a video room for patrons where they could go in an create a video and put it on YouTube or other video sites if they want. This would promote creativity and allow people without access to the equipment to take and create videos. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, you can create a video with a QuickCam camera that hooks on a computer and a microphone and optionally, various types of software for creating, editing, manipulating and enhancing the videos. And this would also allow people without access to a camcorder to take videos of themselves or their kids. And there could be classes in how to use the equipment and a place where people could show off the videos they created. And the libraries could have themes for people to create a video for, like “This is my Family” or “What I like about my Library” (it’s been done, but is a great idea) or any number of things.

Even better, provide a whole television studio where patrons can produce and televise their own shows on cable television like the ACPL Access Fort Wayne.

6. Libraries could also have a large, nice community center area with senior activities like bridge or Wii bowling (my mom loves this), singles activities like euchre tournaments and speed dating, family activities like Wii/video games or karaoke, teen activities like gaming tournaments, children’s activities like storytime, etc.

7. Libraries could run volunteer outreach programs at places like nursing homes or hospitals where books could be checked out and returned and where people could go and read stories to the people there. The ACPL has outreach services.

8. Libraries could introduce tools and programs for people with disabilities. The ACPL has an extremely good program called NEIRRS (Northeast Indiana Radio Reading Service). Northeast Indiana Radio Reading Service (NEIRRS) is a FREE radio reading service for people who are blind or have a visual or reading/print impairment (What does print impaired mean? A print-impaired individual is any person who is unable to read conventional printed material. It may be a person who is blind or has low-vision, they may have a literacy issue, or a physical impairment which makes it difficult to hold a book or turn pages (stroke, Parkinson’s, arthritis). NEIRRS is staffed by volunteers and provides loans for receivers to pick up their broadcasts. NEIRRS volunteers read local news and features from a dozen area newspapers, plus magazines, books, grocery ads, obituaries and more.

Or if a library is small and doesn’t have the resources for this, they can provide podcasts online. NEIRRS also has started doing podcasts of things of interest in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette each day, such as obituaries and selected readings. This really is pretty easy and cheap to implement.

And there are many other things that libraries can look at. I know that my mom can’t read the print on the computers and I find that I am having a harder time with that myself. Providing some computers with extra-large text, screen readers, text enlargers and other features would help a lot of people, as would easy wheelchair access, etc.

9. Libraries could provide email newsletters about events and topics of interest, like a children’s, teens, families, etc events newsletter, reading programs, educational programs, new books or selected books, music/art/special events, branch information, etc.

10. There are many interesting ideas for new programs that libraries could introduce. Here are some things that the Allen County Public Library are doing and I’m sure libraries could come up with much more: Antiques Evaluation Day, Teen Sumo Robots tournaments, Llamas @ the Library, Paws to Read (one of my favorites), Miniature Mayhem, Teen Events grades 6-12, musical performances, Movie Night @ the Library (scroll down), art exhibits, genealogy and flickr pictures of other ACPL programs.

Well, these are a few of my ideas. What do you think?

~Susan Mellott

Becky Carleton, a librarian at the Johnson County Library in Kansas challenged me to name ten pieces

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