A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted the ways some libraries are using new technology to better serve their patrons. For example, in Hugo, MN:
“the new library branch has no librarians, no card catalog and no comfortable chairs in which to curl up and read. Instead, the Library Express is a stack of metal lockers outside city hall. When patrons want a book or DVD, they order it online and pick it up from a digitally locked, glove-compartment- sized cubby a few days later.”
Several other cities have similar plans, such as:
- Mesa, Ariz., plans to open a new “express” library in a strip-mall, open three days a week, with outdoor kiosks to dispense books and DVDs at all hours of the day
- Palm Harbor, Fla., meanwhile, has offset the impact of reduced hours by installing glass-front vending machines that dispense DVDs and popular books.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed by some in the public library community. James Lund, director of the Red Wing Public Library in Red Wing, Minn., is quoted in the article saying, “the basis of the vending machine is to reduce the library to a public-book locker.”
But guess what? Hugo, MN reports that “visits last year rose 10% compared to 2007“, and they plan to add more lockers very soon.
I believe that we as librarians need to adapt to our customers, not continue to ask them to adapt to us. If your customers are at the mall, add kiosks like Mesa, AZ.
How does this apply to the law librarian? Ask yourself some probing questions about your services and how your patrons use them (or don’t). For example, if your attorneys don’t visit the library or your intranet page, how can you bring the information to the pages or places where they ARE? Is it vitally important to maintain something that no one uses or more important to provide services that are used and valued?