library innovationWhen it comes to library goals, increasing patrons is a timeless (and probably universal) objective. Given the events of the past couple of years (global pandemic, anyone?), libraries have had to think outside that proverbial box more than ever.

Not surprisingly, one of the best ways to reach more people in the community is through technology. By taking advantage of today’s advances in innovative ways, libraries can engage with communities, increase circulation, and perform successful outreach.

Here are a few ideas to inspire your own library innovations.

Partner with Public Transport

The next time you head to Vegas, keep an eye out for the city buses. Why? Because a partnership between the Las Vegas–Clark County Library District and the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission means each bus has a QR code that allows anyone with a mobile device to become a library patron at any time.

That’s right, anyone… even tourists visiting The Strip for the weekend can use local library services while they’re in town. Users simply use the QR code to download the library’s “Libby” app. Then they enter their phone number and instantly gain access and start borrowing materials. Bus riders get free Wi-Fi, making the process even easier. Materials are automatically returned at the end of the loan period. It could not be any easier!

This partnership was developed by Executive Director Kelvin Watson. He is the winner of the 2022 ALA Library of the Future Award, who’s known for his innovative initiatives.

Expand Click and Collect

Though we’re certainly glad 2020 (and 2021) are in the rear-view mirror, something good did come out of the pandemic years: the development of curbside services. The ability to “click and collect” kept many library patrons engaged, even when many physical facilities are shuttered or open for limited hours.

Many patrons have grown accustomed to curbside pickup, and it looks like the service is here to stay. So why not innovate it? For instance, partner with local schools to offer STEM kits, study guides, and other academic tools. Or offer “take and make” kits featuring seasonal crafts or art projects through curbside or Locker pickup. With many options for Locker configuration layout, some compartments even hold a sewing machine for patrons to borrow.

You could also consider offering book bundles that add “if you liked this title, you might like this title” to patrons’ selected checkouts. Bundles may be theme-, genre-, or age-based. For instance, a “cozy cottage mysteries” bundle, a “starting middle school” bundle, or a “space opera” bundle.

Take the Library to the People with Kiosks

When people work long hours or don’t have access to transportation, they can’t always make it to a library during regular business hours. So why not take the library to them? We have three options you can explore:

  1. The Lending Library is a lower-cost solution for outreach with a first-in-first-out, charge-only service that cannot accommodate hold pickup/hold management. Staff must return material to it manually. It supports a small touch screen (7″) for patron interaction. It also has a glass door for full material visibility and holds up to 500 items. This dispensing unit gives patrons access to library materials— books, DVDs, magazines, movies, and more — 24/7. They also have Wi-Fi hotspot capability, offering access to e-materials and a needed community service that can help reduce the digital divide and growing word gap.
  • The AutoLend Library is similar to the Lending Library in that it provides readers with access to library materials at any time, any day. It also has Wi-Fi hotspot options. But how this is different is this full-service outreach product supports “what you want is what you get” with direct patron returns to the device. Material returned can be immediately charged again by the next patron. It has full hold capability, which means patrons can place material in it on hold, request a hold be picked up in it, and expire holds to be marked for the next patron in line for it. The AutoLend Library supports a full-use 21″ touch screen interface that includes support for Browsing, Returns, and Holds Pickup. It includes My Account, Library website, and fee and fine payment features with ADA placement and retrieval management of the material.
  • Intelligent Pick-Up Lockers are also a great solution with the ability for patrons to place holds on library materials and pick them up and return them at a remote library location more convenient to them. Machines of this type are about the size of a standard vending machine. So they fit easily into bus stations, subway platforms, building lobbies, recreation centers, grocery stores, and other convenient spots. These versatile units hold hundreds of items, in an array of types and sizes, and fit virtually anywhere your patrons are. It’s a simple way to give patrons what they want, when and where they want it.

With a bit of creative thinking, these innovative programs and products can help your library use today’s technology to reach the entire community. Click below to discover more!