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Web scale discovery – Is it time for a change in public libraries?

You can’t work in libraries and fail to hear customers say (often) “It’s so hard to look for books on this catalogue!” or “Why won’t your catalogue show me books AND dvds AND magazines on my topic? or “Why do I have to go to a different page to read this article or download this eBook?”.

Then most often of all “Can you just search this for me .. I can’t make it work!!!!”

Web scale discovery is ” A single-line form, the consolidated index, which represents a very large portion of a library’s print and online collection”.

Well that is the technical explanation!  Simply put web scale discovery is just like Google!

This YouTube Clip simply explains how web scale discovery works

If you are interested in the technicalities of how web scale discovery works  Athena Hoeppner provides a good discussion of the concepts behind the one line search.

Helen Edwards discusses the key features identified by Professor John Ackroyd:

  • Simple Google like search box
  • Ranking to organise results
  • Enhanced searchability: use of authors, formats, main topics.
  • Click through to full text content
  • Branding customisation for libraries.
  • Personalisation – saved searches and email, social discovery
  • Single sign up to all databases.

Web scale discovery (or at least aspects of it) has been used for many years in some academic libraries by sites such as EBSCO’s Discovery Service (EDS) ( It is discussed here that “results by early adopters seem promising, reversing the download trends of usage, average usage of the top 100 journals increased by 42% and for the top 1000 journals it was 82%”,

Sounds great but is it for public libraries?

As Aaron Tay discusses

” A couple of years ago, libraries were excited by the idea of “next generation catalogues” that included “Web 2.0″ features like tagging, submission of reviews, facets etc. Libraries were purchasing products like Encore, Aquabrowser, Primo… It was believed that such modern looking interfaces would win some of our users back from Amazon and maybe even Google. However, next generation catalogues so far have failed to live up to their hype and have not done much to turn things around, the trend of users going for google and amazon if anything has accelerated”.

…….and, be honest, I know that is how many public librarians are thinking!

It is worth considering the benefits and limitations discussed by Helen Edwards when she likens ” libraries themselves to black holes, pointing out that while it is possible to find out all about any film ever made on the Internet, there is still no reliable way of linking to a book – if you don’t count Amazon”.

If you do decide to implement web scale discovery check out ‘Encore Duet’ offered by Innovative Interfaces (they may already provide your Library Management software ‘Sierra’).  “Innovative has forged partnerships with content providers so Encore libraries can integrate a full range of resources. Library users can initiate eBook checkouts and place holds for eBooks directly in the Encore environment”

My Verdict

Although Web scale discovery is yet another invention of our customer catalogue interface our current solution is not user friendly.  It is not well used by customers (adding to additional pressure on library staff to perform even basic for customers).  The ‘google like’ interface is familiar to the majority of our customers and consideration should be given to implementing this solution.


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Instagram for libraries – is it worth it? …or is it just another social media fad?

Social media has taken the world by storm.  This blog post shows that 67% of public libraries in New Zealand have a facebook or twitter account (41% have both) – NOTE: this data is from 2013 so has probably increased.

Newer on the scene is Instagram.  Instagram is “a free app that allows you to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever and create a world more connected through photos”.

This clip explains instagram and its popularity.

If you already have a facebook or twitter account for your library, is it necessary to have an Instagram page too? The New Zealand Trade and Enterprise blog says Instagram will continue to be the fastest growing network with a change in preference towards visual content on social media (and confirmed here). Take a look at these amazing statistics on Instagram use from 2015 (like 300 million monthly active users), if you need convincing that your library should consider an Instagram page.

Instagram is one of the best ways of engaging teens and young adults in social media.  The  New Jersey State Library blog says “Be Visual in Social Media. Teens are gravitating to highly visual social media apps including Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat. … Both Pinterest and Instagram offer the best opportunity to reach teens and are easily incorporated into your social media strategy”.  David Moth says “The app is more popular among younger people, with usage at 41% among those aged 16-24 and at 35% among 24-34s”. In New Zealand and Australia ANZ Bank is targeting this ‘new generation’ of customers saying “We are very focused on reaching younger audiences and being relevant to them, so Instagram can be a really great place for us to engage.”

So are you convinced??  

YES … then sit down, grab a cuppa and read on…..

Elise Moreau explains simply how Instagram works … posts, likes, photos, filters. #hashtags

Take a look around at some top library Instagram accounts for inspiration.

Then check out David Lee King’s Blog for Instagram tips relevant to libraries

or Amy Mollett and Anthony McDonnell discussing five cool ways libraries are using Instagram to share collections and draw public interest.

Then if you are still after inspiration try Molly Wetta talking about #libraryshelfie or #bookface pics and some really cool ideas she has used on Instagram (there are some great links at the bottom to further reading)

Last up … if you are not rushing off to post on your new Instagram page take a look at this Youtube Clip (a good overview of Instagram for all you visual people out there).

My Verdict

Instagram is an inexpensive way to connect and market to our teen and young adult customers.  This is a group which we have identified we would like to have greater interaction with, therefore I recommend a trial Instagram in our libraries.

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Streaming movies and television – Is it a good lending fit for public libraries?

2015 has been the year of streaming.  Streaming is shared media (watching movies and music from the internet). Playing media on one device when the media is saved on another (a computer, website, server or network), but the file is not moved or copied to the device that is playing it. New Zealand has been flooded with options like NetflixLightboxNeon.

So many options for television and movie viewing might mean dvds may soon be a distant memory. Blayne Slabbert, for Stuff, explains ” DVDs will be around for a while yet however in the long-term they will go the way of the cassette tape…what can be made digital will be made digital (or in this case, what can go online will go online)”. However, with prices of these services soon set to rise with the introduction of the ‘download or Netflix tax’, estimated to generate $40million dollars in GST revenue on ebooks, music and digital TV, will customers turn to public libraries as a free (or cheaper) source of streaming?

As explained in this article libraries are not only about books.  Customers have been able to borrow a wide selection of dvds (or blurays), often free or at a low fee, for a number of years and the newest format available is streaming video is quickly becoming popular. The Los Angeles Times blog states “Libraries are a bigger source of DVDs than Netflix……more people get DVDs from libraries than from Netflix…….Every day, public libraries loan out 2.1 million DVDs, slightly more than Netflix’s 2 million daily rentals”. This blog was from 2010, but has anything changed?

Do New Zealand public libraries need to jump on the streaming bandwagon? 

Alan Mask may be like many of our customers, when he writes about five reasons borrowing dvds from the library is better than subscribing to a streaming service.  He highlights the lack of bandwidth and disruption to internet service which often makes streaming at peak times almost impossible for many.

Would this content add value to our library services?  eBooks have become an important part of our collection and a streaming movie service may be the next step in our evolution to stay relevant to our audience and provide services they demand.

If ‘Yes’ then ‘How?’

Matt Enis explains several different providers including Hoopla and Roku are helping libraries deliver streaming to their customers in USA.  Overdrive Media, which many libraries in New Zealand are familiar with from their ebook and eAudiobook platform, also offer a streaming service.  It may just be the next step to upgrade to the Overdrive Next Generation Platform.  They say “Users won’t need to download apps or activate a device. This instant-access technology enables users to check out a video….and immediately start watching or listening in any web browser”.

Other considerations.

  • Kathy Brown said at the 2015 Nethui “In the mobile space, there is a huge gap between those who have a lot of connectivity and those who have none”.  Is the provision of movie streaming services by public libraries just a reinforcement of the digital divide? Or is it helping to close the divide?
  • Is it a good fit with our community? Will the uptake justify the investment? Stuff explains ” You’ll need a broadband connection with a speed of about 4Mbs or higher and a good data allowance. About 30GB to 40GB a month (You’ll use about 2.3GB an hour to stream high-definition shows)”. Does our community have access to the internet speed for watching streamed movies or television?

My Verdict

Streaming services would align with our service delivery goals well.  Our customers have access to the infrastructure required to enable this service.  It would add equitable access and value to those who are not able to afford these services.  It would also be an add on to the current Overdrive eBook and e Audiobook service we offer, and may add impetus to this service which is currently underutilised.

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Beacon Technology – how can these tiny devices do so much for libraries?

Examples of the technology that can change the way libraries deliver information to their customers

Examples of the technology that can change the way libraries deliver information to their customers

Imagine library patrons entering the library and being reminded, via a message to their mobile phone, they have two requested items ready to pick up, or a magazine due back today.

Envisage their delight when they are sent an invitation to a poetry reading event while browsing poetry books, or a cooking demonstration while browsing recipe books.

Picture a student’s happiness when they are sent a link to relevant ebooks, digitised newspapers or photographs while browsing the history section.

These are some possibilities open to add value to library services with the introduction of Beacon Technology or iBeacons (the apple version of beacon technology).

Ned Potter explains that Beacons are “small wireless devices which use Bluetooth LE (low energy) to broadcast targeted and specific messages to Bluetooth enabled smartphones”.  They ‘talk’ to your mobile phone via a downloadable app.

The small beacons (pictured above) can be strategically placed around the library to send specific messages to users in those areas.  Beacons last for up to three years on one coin sized battery and are currently available for $US99 for a 3 pack or smaller sticky estimote beacons (packets of 10 for $US99)

How do beacons work?

This simple Youtube clip shows more about how beacons work.

What can beacons be used for?

Beacon technology has been used in retail for “proximity marketing” to alert customers to specials

They are being trialed in New Zealand, by Westpac Bank for the “opportunity to add another dimension to customer service”.

Beacon technology has benefits for libraries.  This article from the ALA (American Library Association) on tech trends for 2015 has identified two companies working on applications for this technology specifically for libraries. According to this informative blog post Orlando Public Library are currently trialing Bluubeam beacon technology in their library to engage with their customers and provide them further information.

Capira Technologies have a library focused app which integrates with the Library Management System information giving personalised information such as prompting them to pick up requests or renew items.

  • Beacons might alert librarians when someone needs assistance when spending a long time searching for an item
  • In the future, with the development of smaller, cheaper beacons, they may help librarians to find missing items on shelves
  • Or lead the customer straight to the book they are looking for on the shelves

Ned Potter gives some great examples of how they can be used to enhance a public library users experience.

More things to consider

According to Carli Spina concerns about using beacon technology in libraries is primarily about privacy.  “The beacons themselves only transmit information and do not collect any information from devices that come into proximity with them, they can trigger applications that do collect information.”  She also outlines concerns about security “relating to the ease with which unauthorized people can detect and then spoof beacons in their own applications.

As with all new technology, the use of these beacons must be carefully managed and monitored.  However, these tiny technological devices are set to open up a world of possibilities of customer interaction in libraries.

My Verdict

Beacon Technology is an emerging technology that has great potential to add value to our library.  It will enhance communication with customers and provide another avenue for providing targeted information.  I recommend further investigation and a trial of this technology in our library.

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