New Library, New Technologies, New Services
Bill Helling
Crawfordsville District Public Library (IN)
web@cdpl.lib.in.us
D203

New Library, New Technologies, New Services

The new Crawfordsville District Public Library opened in October 2005, leaving the Carnegie building it had occupied for more than a century. The present library is located less than 100 feet from the old, but in terms of technology, the distance between the two has the potential to be far greater. Because we were not permanently increasing our budget or hiring more staff, we knew that we would face certain challenges in the new library:

The key to success was to address these challenges with technology in order to create services for our library.

How could we handle increased circulation with current staffing?

Our barcode-based process for check-out involved finding the barcode on or in an item, moving the barcode under a reader, placing a card in a pocket to disarm security, and repeating the process in reverse for check-in. Eighty percent of a circulation staff member’s day was absorbed in a task that was monotonous and caused repetitive stress injuries. The staff could barely keep up with shelving and inventory.

SOLUTION: RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)

Problems encountered

Benefits of RFID

Strategies for implementation

Address the legitimate fears of staff members who worry about their job security if their task of check-in/check-out is reduced.

How could we provide comfort for more patrons in a larger building?

We had to consider an increased need for patron well-being because we could no longer observe directly all our space as we once were able to in a smaller building. We needed to automate the regulation of heating, cooling, and lights for patron convenience as well as ours.

SOLUTION: automated HVAC and lighting

Problems encountered

Benefits of automated HVAC and lighting

Strategies for implementation

How could we meet the rising demand for computer access?

In our previous library we had few patron computers, and different computers served different needs. Computers were unfortunately of various types, models, and operating systems. Each patron had to sign up on paper so that we could regulate time, but the security software did not allow them to do anything other than routine work. Because the computers were concentrated in the Reference area, this staff was often inconvenienced.

SOLUTION: consistently managed and distributed computers

Problems encountered

Benefits of consistently managed and distributed computers

Strategies for implementation

How could we offer network access throughout the building?

SOLUTION: wireless access

Problems encountered

Benefits of wireless access

Strategies for implementation

How could we cover our additional floor space?

We retained the traditional service desks after our move, but not all duties were able to be performed while immobile at a desk. Staff members needed to wander farther from the service desks while still being reachable. Mobile phones had a limited range and were tied to their own base.

SOLUTION: VoIP with wireless phones

Problems encountered

Benefits of VoIP with wireless phones

Strategies for implementation

How could we get staff to communicate more efficiently?

We went from a compact, 10,000 square foot building to a spacious, four-floor 30,000 square foot building. Staff members accustomed to walking around looking for other staff members were wasting a lot of time wandering around a much larger building – and scribbled notes on non-uniform types of scrap paper continued to be placed in staff mailboxes, under doors, and on chairs.

SOLUTION: Instant Messenger

Problems encountered

Benefits of Instant Messenger

Strategies for implementation

How could we keep patrons updated on new items?

For years, patrons had no easy way to discover new library items via our catalog, unless we manually composed a list. Many patrons depended on a popular weekly newspaper column written by a volunteer who composed a one-sentence synopsis of a portion of our new books (and not any other new items). The newspaper decided to discontinue publishing this column on its own web site, thus reducing the column's potential readership.

SOLUTION: RSS feeds

Problems encountered

Benefits of RSS feeds

Strategies for implementation

How could we promote ourselves better within the community?

A new library is an expensive and often controversial project. We have found ourselves needing to support the tax increase to fund this building project. We never attempted to sell ourselves before, but we realized that we needed to make ourselves more visible and accessible to a public that suffered the expense and inconvenience of this change.

SOLUTION: Blogging with RSS feeds

Problems encountered

Benefits of Blogging with RSS feeds

Strategies for implementation

How could we offer some traditional services in better ways?

We were often a tradition-bound institution that would not try to improve any "satisfactory" library process. For example, the Children's Department offered a longstanding service called Dial-A-Tale, where young patrons could phone and listen to a recorded story. This analog-based service was often troubled by technological difficulties and was limited to one listener at a time. Only one story was offered at a time, and it disappeared when the next one was ready. None was archived.

SOLUTION: podcasting

Problems encountered

Benefits of podcasting

Strategies for implementation

Conclusion

Within a few weeks after we moved into our new building, we were managing several new technologies:

Embracing change is always difficult, especially when opening a new library at the same time. Nevertheless, we have seen that any effort we make to integrate technology into our library to address basic challenges can lead to new services that satisfy both our staff and patrons.