contactlessDisruption, upheaval, and change… When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, the world seemed to change in an instant. At the time, many pundits predicted the uncertainty would last a few weeks before everything went back to normal. (Ha.)

So here we are, more than two years out, and many of the adaptations and technological responses that seemed so radical at the time — yes, we’re talking about you, contactless service and virtual programming — have now simply become the norm. In other words, 2022’s patrons have grown used to the ease and convenience of services that were catalyzed by 2020’s necessity. These changes are here to stay… so how can libraries best adapt moving forward?

Let’s look at what libraries have learned over the past two years and take a peek ahead into the future of the contactless trend.

Virtual Programming & Services

In the early days of the pandemic, a new buzzword permeated the zeitgeist: social distancing. For libraries and other public-facing businesses and institutions, this necessitated a rapid shift from in-person to virtual programming. Hence, the rise of Zoom meetings, events, presentations, and conferences. While in-person events seem to have made at least a partial come-back, it’s easy to see the benefits of virtual options.

For those who can’t travel, don’t have access to cars or public transportation, are ill, or simply prefer participating from the comfort of home, virtual programming is a definite plus that facilitates inclusivity. Add in the convenience factor of digital library cards, and we think contactless service is here to stay.

Digital Collections

Pandemic restrictions also sparked an explosion in demand for resources that could be delivered electronically. Of course, digital collections were already popular even before the pandemic.

Over the past few decades, the demand for e-resources has grown steadily. Covid-19 simply sped it up further. Market statistics indicate a 40 percent increase in e-book loans from 2019 to 2020!

The Contactless Trend

Given the convenience of digital collections and virtual programming, it’s easy to see that contactless service is more than a trend. Rather, we predict it’ll play a key role in libraries’ future. But it’s not all about e-resources and Zoom presentations. Patrons still want physical items — from books and magazines to DVDs and CDs — but many patrons prefer contactless service.

One of the best ways to meet their needs is through technological innovations such as library lockers. These convenient, intelligent units offer complete contactless service, including pick-ups and returns. Library lockers offer 24/7 access and can be placed where your patrons can easily reach them, increasing access to underserved areas.

They’re touchless, secure, and — best of all — completely customizable! The system is easy to expand, with the capacity to add up to 60 lockers. Your library can even add a hotspot, charging ports, payment modules, and program the units to offer access to your library’s OPAC or additional sites.

When you’re looking to the future, one thing is clear: Digital and contactless options are here to stay. Solutions like the ILS Intelligent Library Locker Systems provide a way to meet your patrons’ changing needs in changing times.