The Web isn’t useful just because we can read documents on it. Utility on the web comes from actually being able to accomplish tasks. Time? Space? Forget about ’em. Do your banking at midnight, choose your movies without leaving home, and now the residents of Western Springs can apply for a library card online!
Looking to add the most utility as possible to our website, we decided to try out having an online library card application. Why? Letting people apply online and simply present two forms of ID at the Circ desk to pick up their cards saves the time of the reader. Secondarily, it eases the burden on the staff in charge of making the cards. The URL for the page is very straightforward: fordlibrary.org/gettingacard. I’m happy to note that this page is the second hit for the search online library card application. Neat. The page has been up for perhaps two weeks, and we’ve had about five submissions, each one requesting more than one card. A link to the online application sits in a prime piece of real estate on the library’s homepage. How long does it take you to find it?
Technically, this feature on the library’s website is a no-brainer. It is just an email form, the result of which gets sent to two email addresses: Main Reference and the manager of Circ. The most important aspect to the success of the project is the coordination of appropriate staff. If you want to do something like this, it will only be successful if the people that create the library cards are on board. This is usually the Circ staff, right? We got people up to speed by saying, “Hey, you might get some slips of paper with a library card request from Reference staff. All you have to do is make up some cards, call and/or email the patron, and put them in this special box. When people come in looking for their cards, check their IDs and find their cards in said box.” Not too bad.
The language on the form could use a bit of improvement. Presently it only has spaces for the person applying and children. Including spouses would be a good idea. The other thing that should be added is a statement about how and when patrons will be notified that their cards are ready. We’re shooting for just a few hours during the business day.
Two weeks doesn’t allow for much of a data sample, true, but just like patron placed materials requests, this seems to be a case of “if you build it they will come.”