Our goal will be to expand the reference desk to assist patrons with the technologies that they can access through the library. Dedicated staff will be able to answer questions on devices, apps, downloadables, databases, and streaming services offered by the library. At the Technology Exploration Desk, we will also have versions of the devices that they may have questions about so that they can maneuver them in real time and explore what they have to offer. This Technology Exploration Desk would exist at a unique (not-reference) desk, but would also have a dedicated phone line and online office hours for IM question and answer chats with a librarian.
We wish to engage all our users with a specific focus on users who may suffer from “technophobia”, young users who may be learning about technology, and our newer users who may not be familiar with services and technology that the library has for public use.
Convince our users
that by engaging with our staff at the Technology Exploration Desk
they will become familiar with our technology
which will broaden their knowledge and access to information
because they will be able to drive their information seeking through technology independently.
In Pew’s “Library Services in the Digital Age” (2013) (http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/01/22/library-services/) respondents to the Pew survey said that they would like access to new devices via ‘technology petting zoos’ (69% were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to use this). People questioned also wanted online research services to ask questions of librarians (73% were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to use such a service). A Technology Exploration Desk would speak to both those needs.
Stephen’s “Holding Us Back” (2013) (http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/04/opinion/michael-stephens/holding-us-back-office-hours/#) reminds us that “encouraging and facilitating learning” is one of our missions as librarians. A help desk devoted to promoting not only technology but the technology that our patrons can access through our organization serves this mission and also that of maximizing the benefits that we bring to our stakeholders. Supporting familiarity with all the services we provide will improve usage and widen access.
The mission of the Technology Exploration Desk will be to encourage patrons to seek out and test our technology. The staff is on hand to answer questions and facilitate patron use of library technology and services.
Policies will be set by management and staff as a team. Complying with the ALA Code of Ethics (hhttp://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics) and the library’s greater mission, the policies team will define a standard of service that benefits our customer (Stephens, 2004). Our main goal should be eliminating barriers to access.
A private sector service model we may look at for inspiration is the Apple Genius Bar. With all the technology out in the open for exploration, the geniuses are there to answer questions and provide assistance (http://www.apple.com/retail/geniusbar/).
New budget costs may be offset by grant funding. Staff or staff assistants may be volunteers. Technology locks to prevent theft may be needed. Donations of these can be solicited from local computer stores.
In the current building, space formerly allocated to an oversized map table and free materials can be outfitted immediately with a spare desk and in-stock devices that we currently own can be used to answer questions. Reference desk staff can be trained on these devices and attend to the new Technology Exploration Desk whenever there is double coverage on the Reference Desk.
Approval would be needed from the Reference Supervisor for possible staffing reallocation and training, the IT Supervisor for phone and website set up as well as possible staffing, and the Branch Manager. Accounting, Human Services, and Administration approval will be needed for further staff hires.
Implementation can be launched at the branch in three weeks allowing for training on devices and apps for applicable staff. This would also allow for promotion in branch and through the website and social media. [This start time for the branch Technology Exploration Desk would be pushed back for additional training if new hires were approved].
Timelines for the telephone line and online iterations of the Technology Exploration Desk would be arranged with IT.
Staff may be reassigned from reference, IT, or newly hired. We could seek future staff or volunteers from local college and university IT students. Tech savvy high schoolers could assist librarians at the desk and perhaps fulfill community service requirements for graduation.
Training should be designed by the Reference supervisor. This should go hand in hand with the technology in question and already existing tutorials (no need to reinvent the wheel). Training should also be up to date with software updates and new acquisitions. Ideally, all building staff would be trained on all the library services and technology. After all, this is our inventory. It is important that we know our products. Critical training would be for the staff and volunteers manning the Technology Exploration Desk. For existing staff, training can be conducted around current desk hours. For future staff, training would be part of the orientation process.
The new Technology Exploration Desk should be promoted in-house. A “coming soon” teaser is a great way to encourage anticipatory interest and allows staff the opportunity to answer questions positively and encourage customer “buy in”. The social media the library uses and library website are built in promotional outlets. Outreach to schools, nursing homes, and community centers are also chances to showcase the new Technology Exploration Desk and seek out our target audience. Inviting partner organizations to have a field trip to try out the new program can generate cross-organizational interest.
Success will be measured by counting the number of patrons who use the Exploration Desk. Other metrics that can be used are changes in consumption of featured technology. A statistical shift from one month to the other in use of a certain software featured at the Technology Exploration Desk can be measured. The use of this space as a promotional tool for the greater services offered by the library is an additional benefit to this independent learning space.
A day in the life of a Technology Exploration Specialist may include: playing online games with an elementary school student, promoting the use of hoopla on one of our laptops to the high schooler who is looking for a specific book whose copies are all checked out, showing a mom our Learning Express database, or teaching a senior how to maneuver the web page on one of our iPads.
In the future, this program could expand to our two sister libraries. A Technology Exploration bookmobile that acts as a mobile hotspot would be a great future outreach program springboarding off this program. [Fraser Valley Regional Library in Canada has a program like this https://uklibchat.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/feature-01-innovative-use-of-technology-in-libraries/].
Promoting our existing services and technologies are critical to ensuring that we are meeting the needs of our community. A Technology Exploration Desk is a prime opportunity to gauge if what we are offering is relevant to our constituents. The feedback we get from such an endeavor could help to guide our future planning and purchases and ensure that we are not chasing trends that don’t matter to our patrons.
ALA. (2017, January 04). Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics
Apple Inc. (2017). Genius Bar Reservation and Apple Support Options. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://www.apple.com/retail/geniusbar/
Green, G. (2013, October 11). Feature #01: Innovative use of Technology in Libraries. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from https://uklibchat.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/feature-01-innovative-use-of-technology-in-libraries/
June, L. (2013, January 13). America’s first bookless public library will look ‘like an Apple Store’ Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://www.theverge.com/2013/1/13/3872478/americas-first-bookless-public-library-will-look-like-an-apple-store (image credit)
Stephens, M. (2004, November 1). Technoplans vs. technolust. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://tametheweb.com/2004/11/01/technoplans-vs-technolust/
Stephens, M. (2013, April 18). Holding Us Back | Office Hours. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/04/opinion/michael-stephens/holding-us-back-office-hours/#
Zickuhr, K., Rainie, L., & Purcell, K. (2013, January 21). Library Services in the Digital Age. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/01/22/library-services/