What happens to the “physical library” in the 21st century?

In his post: The Physical Library in the 21st Century David Lee King in effect asks “what happens when a library’s service levels for books is so good (books found and reserved online, books delivered to a home address, books returned via a drop box or mail) that the customer traffic drops off dramatically”.

What will sustain the traffic levels??? – an excellent question.  Make sure you also read the comments below the post.

I agree with the central idea that the library will have customer traffic if the user has a sufficiently positive experience. Within the next 5-10 years, there will be so much competition for a customers time, that only those venues that offer a rewarding user experience will have repeat traffic. How well libraries create unique and rewarding experiences will determine their success. For some more exciting ideas about the library experience of the future, go here: The Future of Libraries

What are your ideas to create a great user experience in your library? 

What already works?  What can be improved?

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6 Responses to “What happens to the “physical library” in the 21st century?”

  1. brinxmat Says:

    My boss was interviewed for our University paper recently, I have translated the article to English since it actually has a few statistics that are interesting.

  2. brinxmat Says:

    And the link: http://infonatives.wordpress.com/2008/01/31/why-do-we-need-a-library/

  3. Kelley Says:

    I think that’s exactly where the shift in library services should be taking place – how to create a genuine and engaging experience within the library building itself that makes people want to walk through your doors. Since many library services are now redundant (google, wikipedia, ask a ninja, youtube, bookstore storytimes, netflix, etc) libraries need to not only focus on competing with those remote services, but changing their physical buildings and what they provide inside the building. What CAN’T people get remotely? Sometimes, it’s intimate connection with others, hands-on activities that teach a person how to cook, how to sew, how to knit, how to create a web-page. And, an environment that’s user-friendly. I know, an old song to sing, but it’s true. As a librarian, few libraries tempt me and my limited time. The ones who do, allow food, drink, offer free wifi, comfy seating, worker-friendly hours (Friday nights, early mornings, weekends) and programming geared toward 30-somethings. And frankly, few libraries in my county have all of those things to offer…so, while I use the libraries’ remote services (ordering books online, using databases) it’s off to the local coffee shop or Panera for me.

  4. msjenlouise Says:

    Food in a library is revolutionary.

  5. Sara Jane Says:

    Museums have had to go through this same change of creating a visitor experience. Wouldn’t it be novel to have someone to greet a person when they get to the library and find out what they’re coming for — and perhaps let them know what else they could find there? Some libraries in the county are doing conversation salons, but they host them in closed meeting rooms “so the discussion doesn’t bother the patrons who want quiet.” Why not have those patrons in the meeting rooms, and the conversation out in the library where people could overhear, and drop in? Why not set up listening stations where people can listen to CDs before they take the home? How about displays of books by theme on a carousel right in the lobby to grab your interest on current events, time of year, staff recommendations. Why not live music in a section of the library. Libraries need to rearrange their spaces to creat pockets of activities to appeal to their variety of customers.

  6. Brad Fish Says:

    Sara Jane – as usual your focus on serving the customers needs and providing a service based, unique experience is terrific. Thanks for contributing!

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