Thursday, April 27, 2006

Power to the patrons!

I was really thrilled when I read the Church of the Customer's report that the BBC is going revamp its Web presence to make way for user-generated content and reader communities!  The short story is that the BBC going to great lengths to engage users with its services by putting its entire program catalog online, encouraging users to create their own blogs and post their videos to the site, and allowing for more customization. It's also asking people to help with the redesign to make use of what services like Flickr and YouTube offer.  The BBC says it bases these changes on three concepts:  share, find and play. (Shouldn't that be a library slogan?)

To my way of thinking, this is exactly the path libraries should be taking as well.  There'’s a shift going on with what patrons want to do with information.  They don'’t just want to find it, but they also want to create it, organize it and share it.  As information providers, it makes sense to accommodate these needs in our physical and online spaces.  This can seem a bit intimidating to those in library-land at first, as it may appear as though we're ceding some of our authority and control, but giving up control is a very good thing to the extent that it invites patrons to become active partners with our organizations rather than just occasional users.  These trends don'’t imply, however, that we need to give up our expertise, but rather, that we find other relevant ways to apply it.  For example, what about offering workshops on saving, tagging and organizing files and bookmarks, and allowing patrons to share some of their finds in a library-sponsored forum?  For me, these trends are very much in keeping with our mission and purpose.  After all, we are stewards of information, and if our patrons are generating content, what better way to demonstrate what we have to offer than to help them be successful in their own personal information endeavors?  In addition, we have always fostered and supported communities, so why not invite them into our virtual spaces to share their thoughts with others, just as we would in our physical spaces?    

From a marketing and service standpoint, the more personally involved patrons are with our libraries, staff and fellow patrons, the more strongly tied they will feel to our mission and success.  It's those personal connections which will help to guide, sustain and differentiate us as patrons are faced with ever more choices and alternatives.  I'm excited by all of the possibilities technology is offering us to help the library come alive for those who want more than a passive library experience, and I hope we'll be prepared to offer that level of interaction in all our services.  

Categories: neat_trends | new_news

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