Top Ten Things to Stay Tech Current

UPDATE to #8

I promised during one of my cybertours (short informational sessions) at the conference that I’d post my thoughts here so that people could refer back. You’re might be doing some of these things already, but you may pick up something.

1. Have a search box into your OPAC on the front page of your website. This way people won’t have to hunt for something they are certainly after. Cost = web developer staff time.

2. Related to #1. If your electronic resources offer remote useage, make these easily available on your website. Barcode authentication is nice. If you’re thinking about subscribing to a database, make the remote access issue a part of the consideration process. Cost = web developer staff time.

3. Have CD burning available for patrons at your workstations. Patrons with slow connectivity at home may want to download large files with fast library connections. Also, they may be working on large documents not easily fit on floppies. Cost = The hardware is not expensive and not too difficult to install. If you’re replacing computers soon the hardware will likely be standard.

4. Related to #3. No dumb computers. I’ve heard Steven Abram (does corporate policy prevent him from blogging? He’s the only vendor I enjoy hearing speak and I bet an Abram blog would be great) state this sentiment bluntly a few times. People have expectations about computers, and ours need to behave like theirs do, but better. Cost = Staff time to configure a protected but free situation. Ghosting software is cheap and a good start. Probably you’ll find a net gain in time.

5. Related to #4. Hassle free browsing. Make sure your users aren’t bombarded by pop-ups from spyware or update/renewal notices for your antivirus program. Allowing these intrusions confuse them. Cost = Perhaps an initial investment of time, but there will be a substantial gain when your users aren’t dependent upon you answering their questions about what to do when something pops up.

6. Answer patron emails quickly. Responding back in 48 or 24 hours isn’t cutting it. Cost = Staff time to answer more questions. If you’re responsive and market this service more people will start emailing you.

7. Use Instant Messaging. There are over 80 million Americans using IM. At least one of them is a patron of yours. Make the library available to them in a relavant way by signing up for a free screen name and marketing it. Make signing on to IM a RefDesk duty. Cost = A bit of staff training time.

8. Have a wireless network available. This is convenient for patrons, and is great PR. Tell your community that your library understands trends in infotech. Staff will appreciate the flexibility of being able to connect anywhere in the building as well. Cost = This will very greatly. However, I’ve spoken with large libraries that have made done this for under $1000. UPDATE: If you don’t have $1K to burn, also keep in mind that you could put one access point in for about $50 if you shop wisely. Typical range is about a 150 foot radius indoors, so one access point can do some serious good!

9. & 10. Use blogs and Really Simple Syndication (RSS) to your advantage. Don’t do it becuase it is trendy, but do it because it can help you. Whether it is a simple staff intranet page, or a new materials page something you’re doing can be made easier by using blogs. RSS can save you time when trying to catch up on professional news. (For instance, you could be reading this through Bloglines and have tons of other pages’ content a click away. Cost = The software is free. Staff time will be involved getting a blog going, but it will save time once it is being used.

Bonus: To stay tech current you’ll need training on anything you implement. Ideally the entire library should be not only aware, but excited about new projects. To accomplish this, get them familiar with the technology and clue them in about the benefits for patrons and staff. If there isn’t a staff supporting and promoting new technology in the library, no matter how flash/fancy/cool/hip/potentially useful it is, it won’t be as successful as it could. Cost = Staff time.

6 thoughts on “Top Ten Things to Stay Tech Current”

  1. Check out PublicIP ( a free, easy-to-configure and run solution for public wireless Internet access. We use it for our public wireless network and run it in open mode. The software is free and you can run it on just about any box that has a decent amount of RAM and two network cards. Add a couple of access points and you have a public wireless network. It also has modes that require authentication, a filtering service and the ability to restrict by ports and enforce timelimits.

  2. I’m emailing this link to all of my librarian friends and the head of the library I used to work at. :) You’d think most of this stuff was common sense, but I guess that’s not the case. On my local public library’s site, you have to go through three pages from the home page to finally get to the catalog! With regards to allowing CD burning, is there a way to prevent users from copying music CDs or violating copyright in other ways?

  3. Great stuff…should be common sense, but often isn’t.

    re: meredith’s question…do you put software on your photocopiers to prevent people from breaking copyright with them? No, and neither should you with CD burners…throw on a copyright sticker, make your patrons aware, and let them do as they will. While the music/movie industries would like us to believe that tools are the problem (from VHS recorders to p2p applications) the tool doesn’t break the law.

  4. I would add that we cover all of our public areas in our 25,000 sq. ft. library with 3 APs with some zones where coverage overlaps (and some bleed over outside the building). While we use high-end APs, you could do the same with some of the less-costly models.

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