Technology + Innovation

Five ways your library can increase community engagement

In today’s on-demand world, libraries are no longer the sole source of education and entertainment. To remain relevant and compete with ubiquitous streaming platforms, overnight shipping, and instant access to information, modern libraries must work to engage their communities and function as community hubs.

We’ve compiled a list of five ways to reach new users and increase community engagement with modern convenience and unique opportunities for connection.

1. Reach new users with diverse digital offerings.

Consider expanding your digital catalog to include content in different formats and languages to engage readers of all kinds.
Queensland State Library in Australia, serving a large immigrant community, recently created a specialized collection of cloudLibrary titles in languages other than English that can be shared amongst the 340 libraries throughout the state. Read about how they are using cloudLink to serve and engage their diverse community here.

Beyond traditional eBooks and eAudio, digital comics, magazines, and newspapers offer a way to reach new demographics. For example, Comics Plus offers thousands of digital comics, graphic novels, and manga that appeal to readers of all ages and interests, including reluctant readers and those learning English as a second language. Additionally, NewsStand offers the world’s largest collection of digital magazines and newspapers in more than 60 languages, assuring that there is something to appeal to every interest.

2. Offer convenient holds pickup and collections in community spaces.

Make materials pickup more convenient and demonstrate your commitment to serving all patrons by placing holds pickup lockers throughout your community. remoteLockers are particularly valuable in communities where infrastructure has not yet caught up with population growth, in rural areas, and in communities that have been historically underserved.

Lockers can be configured to offer holds pickup, a browsable collection, or a blend of both. In addition, available large lockers allow you to engage your community by offering even non-traditional items such as ukuleles for checkout. remoteLockers can be placed in supermarkets, community centers, and gyms – one community even installed a remoteLocker in a fire station!

The new remoteLocker outdoor is a weather-proof solution that can be installed in parking lots, on verandas, or anywhere that electricity and internet connection are available.

remoteLockers not only make it more convenient for patrons to retrieve materials at their convenience, but they can also be used with uniFi+, Bibliotheca’s library communications solution, to promote library events and services and further engage community members that may not frequent traditional library branches.

3. Host an all-community read or watch party.

City-wide reads have long been popular but securing enough copies for every interested patron isn’t always easy or economical. Furthermore, not every patron has time to go to the library to pick up a copy of the book. Digital services such as Comics Plus that offer unlimited, simultaneous use make it possible for all patrons to read the same title at the same time without additional expense. San Diego Public Library selected George Takei’s graphic novel, They Called Us Enemy, for One Book One San Diego. “Procuring enough digital copies for a popular title is often prohibitively expensive, so we were thrilled to find the title offered on Comics Plus,” says Robyn Gage-Norquist, Supervising Librarian at San Diego Public Library.

Similarly, consider engaging your community in a library-wide watch party followed by a discussion. biblio+, Bibliotheca’s streaming service, offers unlimited, simultaneous streaming of thousands of high-quality, ad-free movies including select BBC titles and television series as well as the all-new videoBook format.

4. Meet community needs with early morning or late-night hours.

Libraries provide valuable services and spaces for their communities; in an ideal world, they would be open and accessible 24 hours a day. In the real world, however, library budgets rarely support 24/7/365 staffing.

open+ access is a comprehensive system that allows libraries to provide more flexible hours and better service to their communities. Designed to complement staffed library hours, open+ can be used in a number of ways to meet the needs of individual libraries allowing them to provide equitable access to their communities.

Consider adding early morning hours for seniors to gather over coffee or late-night hours for studying students and shift workers. open+ access makes it possible and affordable to engage your community when they need you most.

5. Utilize technology to free staff to focus on high-value programming.

The trend is clear: libraries are moving away from providing primarily materials and towards providing spaces, services, and programs that position them as community hubs. From makers spaces to STEM programs, library staff work diligently every day to engage their communities in new and enriching activities. But creating and maintaining these programs to engage the community requires significant time and effort.

Free staff to participate in high-value activities by using technology such as selfChecks and automated return solutions to reduce manual tasks. Automated materials handlers like the flex AMH help even the largest libraries get materials back on the shelves faster, while more affordable, compact solutions like smartShelf intelligent shelving are perfect for smaller libraries.

While implementing or upgrading library technology has historically required a large capital outlay, Bibliotheca’s new Solution-as-a-Service (SaaS) purchasing model makes it easier and more affordable than ever for libraries to benefit from the latest library equipment. So before dismissing upgraded technology as hopelessly unrealistic, learn more about how the SaaS purchasing model can bring your goals within reach.

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