Libraries are adding modern twists to the story of how we meet our customers where they are. Customers are in their cars, so Worthington Public Library in Ohio responded with a drive-through for pickup of reserves at one branch and outside lockers where patrons can pick up materials 24/7. Customers are on Facebook, so Worthington hosts reader’s advisory events on Facebook, where people post the last three books they enjoyed and staff recommends new titles for them to consider. Some customers are at rec centers, so there’s a library lending machine there, which is stocked with books and DVDs the same way a vending machine is stocked with goodies.
Our customers are using search engines. “When my community searches the Web for something we have, we better show up as an option,” said Chuck Gibson, the director and CEO of the Worthington Public Library.
Visibility. That’s a term that the Libhub Initiative uses a lot. We mean it in the way that Chuck Gibson does: we want our library assets to be visible where people are looking for them. While that may be in our online catalog, it is far more likely to be on the Web.
Library’s data is ideal for the Web. Libraries are known for reliable, curated information with excellent metadata. Libraries’ info is credible and vetted. We all know from experience that being credible differentiates it from a lot of the dross out there! But many of our assets aren’t visible online now because our library records are formatted in a way that the Web can’t “see.” Before our assets can be visible to end users, they need to be visible to the Web’s back end.
We’ll save for another blog post how to bridge the visibility gap between library records and the Web. Thankfully, there are specific steps that library’s tech services and catalogers can take to make it happen. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not cost-prohibitive.
First, let’s elaborate on why libraries’ collections need to be visible. Here’s a visual of the first page of search results when you Google “The Great Gatsby”.
Every one of our collections has resources related to “The Great Gatsby,” and many of us probably have libguides and other value-added content. However, unless our patrons asked us for them directly, the resources would remain hidden and underutilized.
Resources that are hidden and underutilized are an abomination to libraries. While the word “abomination” might seem dramatic, it’s descriptive given our purpose. Our call to action is to expose our assets to the Web. There, they can be put to use by our customers and open the door to new audiences, data mashups, and discovery.