Planning: Open+ and the Pequot Library

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

Open+ is a service that allows libraries to permit controlled access to the library building during hours that are unstaffed, and also allows staff not present at the building to monitor and control this access. Remote access gives libraries the control over their space in a way that can be used very effectively to extend the amount of hours libraries can be open per day, and with my understanding of the service, incorporating this technology into the Pequot Library would help empower the commuter population to make further use of the library and engage with the services the library provides.

The overall goals of using open+ are to expand the hours in which the library is available for patron use, encourage patron use of library services, and increase the number of people using the library whose schedules make it difficult to make it to the library during regular hours. The library has many physical and hard services like wi-fi, printing, and faxing, along with a robust held book service that can be used by patrons without staff being present when combined with the self-checkout machines already present in the library. As a piece of the community’s social infrastructure (Peet, 2018) it is important that the resources that the library offers are available for as many hours as possible. Implementing Open+ into the library system will let patrons make use of these services before and after the general library hours have ended, and empowers patrons to make use of self-service technologies and to further embrace the library space as their own.  

Description of Community:

The commuter population of the Fairfield and Southport Village community over the age of 18 will benefit from the expanded hours of library operation provided by open+, as they work hours that are at odds with regular library hours.

Pequot Library (taken from https://www.pequotlibrary.org/ )

Commuters spend much of their time traveling into New York City or other major employment hubs on the weekdays, and are often unable to visit or make use of many library services as staffing, budgeting, and other logistical concerns have prevented the library from remaining open during hours these patrons are able to visit the library. These regular hours are from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Monday through Friday, which puts these services out of reach for this group. Patrons make use of other nearby local libraries for library services, as they are open until 9:00 PM on Monday through Thursday, which the Pequot cannot match at the current levels of staffing. Members of this group use the library infrequently during the week and often make most transactions during the weekend, which can be problematic if the information or another physical resource (such as a held book or needing to make a quick fax or copy) that they have been waiting for is not ready for them during this window of time. 

Action Brief Statement:

Convince library patrons, staff, and the community that by implementing open+ they will benefit from extended ‘hours of operation’ and be able to access the library and make use of many of the library’s non-staff driven services. This in turn will lead to more patron use of the library because expanded hours give people with inflexible schedules who might otherwise not use the library a chance to explore the resources we offer and creates the potential for them to make using the library part of their life.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

Libraries Who’ve Used (Unstaffed or Limited Staff) Extended Open Hours or Open+

Sample Guidelines/Articles:

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

Library administration must be involved in establishing the mission and guidelines regarding the usage of the open+ system by patrons, but heads of major departments should also be consulted over concerns about misuse and potential shortfalls of allowing patron access to resources provided by their departments. While some sections of the library are already helpfully separated by keycard access and unavailable to most patrons such as the rare books collection and the sorting and materials room, some items may need to be relocated and guidelines for usage of the service can be adjusted accordingly. Any policies created for this service must also conform to the policies already in place at the Pequot Library.

The rare books section of the Pequot Library (already secured via keycard lock)

Guidelines for the service can be adjusted from the examples provided in the examples above, and will likely deal with ages, restrictions, expectations, troubleshooting, appropriate behavior, and what would constitute a revocation of access for permission to use the library during open hours.  

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

Funding for the original purchase of the technology would need to be sourced from either the community via a fundraising effort, or through negotiations with the town. The town has expressed concern about the library hours in the past, and this solution may be a way to help address local concerns enough to receive some measure of funding or support. Regardless, most of the funding would come from fundraising the library puts on by itself if no appropriate grant or other source is found.

A portion of what little of the proceeds are not needed for critical library operations from the extremely popular library book sale and are not already committed to other projects could be used to help pay for the installation and implementation fees, or put into a fund that will enable the library to be able to install the system as needed.

Staff time will absolutely be needed for determining policies, such as who is qualified to use the service, and for training and other considerations, but no additional staff would need to be hired for this technology to be implemented unless it is decided after beta testing and consultation with focus groups/patrons that a security guard is needed for the few extra hours the library is open each day. 

Action Steps & Timeline: 

Depending on the state of funding available for the project, a reasonable timeline for implementation can be expected to last around a year. Prototyping of the technology is not technically possible; however, there is the possibility of running a beta rollout and a limited access model once the technology is installed so that the community and staff members can adjust to the new capabilities and unforeseen limitation of the technology. Should the administration say no to the idea, expanding hours will require staff to be hired or given longer hours and funding would need to be allocated in order to make outreach to the commuter population during the week.

Several of these steps are heavily influences by other stages in the timeline, and careful consideration must be taken to ensure that if installation of the open+ system occurs that it is done correctly and with safeguards in place to catch problems before they occur.

Projected Timeline

  • Administration Consideration and Approval: (5-8 Weeks)
  • Funding Allocated/Raised: (Highly Variable, Potentially Months Depending on Sources and Timing)
  • Installation of the System: (2-3 Weeks, including testing and primary staff training)
  • General Staff Training (2-3 Weeks)
  • Focus Group Testing/” Beta” Testing: (3 Months)
  • Policy Tweaks/Adjustment (1-2 Weeks)
  • Marketing Campaign: (3 Weeks)
  • General Rollout: (2 Weeks)
  • Evaluation (Ongoing, Report after first month)

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:

While the idea of extending hours using open+ is to do so without adding additional staff members, as stated previously if it is decided a security guard would be required for the space once everything is in place this could be arranged by extending the hours of a library monitor whose job description would solely be to ensure patron safety and not include any general library duties.

And while some staff members will be needed to control the functions of the open+ system remotely in case there was a problem or an announcement needed to be made, this is a momentary responsibility and should not take very long (and in fact could potentially be automated for most of the functions of the open+ system).  

Training for this Technology or Service:

People using the service must be given an initiation for how the system works and the rules for using and being allowed to keep using this special access to the library. Training for how staff can make use of the system and operate it is designed by company setting up the system, but administration would be responsible for designing the training for general staff in order to make them understand how to make space ready for use at the end of the day, including opening staff and maintenance workers who might not understand what their roles are.

Effective scheduling during staff training day (Columbus Day), and a quick refresher course before opening.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: (How can the new technology or service be promoted?  Brainstorm some ideas to promote within your organization. Brainstorm more ideas to promote outside your organization.)

Promotion of this service must be done very carefully, as the message a staff-less library experience could send to both patrons and library staff may be misconstrued very easily. The goal is expanded access to library resources, not the replacement of staff members and a fully robotic library. It makes use of the physical resources the library has, the barriers and partitioned spaces already in place, and simply allows everything in place to be used in a more effective way for limited hours.

Ads promoting the service can be run on local radio stations that commuters and other library patrons might listen to, along with articles in the library newsletter and email blasts to registered patrons. Additional promotion can take place online on the library website, at the library itself via posters, signage, and other print materials, news articles in local papers, and brief write-ups in local blogs. The focus should be on flexibility, patron empowerment, and the library responding to the needs of the community in creative and innovative ways. The library should indicate that this is a reflection of the trust and respect the library has for its patrons and community, and that this is the library expanding access to our popular collections and making new roads for communities the library hasn’t been able to fully serve (Open Library Model Lecture, Zullkey, C. 2019). Messaging could involve the idea of the library “always trying to make sure that its doors are open to you.”

Internally, promotion should be done via email, staff messages, and internal signage of areas and services usable for open+ hours. Staff should be made aware of the intentions behind the technology and the kind of uses the library hopes it will see once it is in place.

Evaluation:

The performance metrics that will be used to evaluate the success of this technology will be the amount of people registered to use the service, the actual number of people using the service as recorded by the system itself, results from patron surveys sent to both people registered for the service and patrons in general to see if they noticed any differences in the library environment, unsolicited patron and staff comments that may be made to staff or admin members, and a survey specifically for library staff.

It is important that a beta trial is run and that the patrons are consulted about this change to the library space. These stakeholders should be engaged and participate in this new solution to a problem that the library has faced (Mack, C., Stephens, M.) when it comes to community outreach and making sure services are available for the people who help contribute to the library’s success. It should be an open and transparent process that takes into account patron and staff concerns (Casey, 2011). If some service can be made available during open hours, then it should be considered if a need is expressed by a patron using the service. Staff concerns should also be helpful and considered when it comes to what areas should be secure during open hours.

If successful, the service could be used to slowly expand how long the library is open without staff, perhaps in 2-hour increments with trial periods to see how the changes have worked out. Overall, the story that evaluations should be uncovering is ideally that of flexible hours and flexible spaces to fit patron needs at a price the town and library can afford, of a library committed to finding solutions that help everyone on the community find time to make use of what the library provides.

References:

Mack, C. (2019, August 1). Crowdsourced Design: Why Los Angeles Is Asking the Public to Create the Library of the Future. Retrieved from https://www.good.is/articles/crowdsourced-design-why-los-angeles-is-asking-the-public-to-create-the-library-of-the-future.

Peet, L. (2018, October 3). Eric Klinenberg: Libraries and Social Infrastructure. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=181003-Eric-Klinenberg-QA .

Stephens, M. (2012, May 30). Taming Technolust: Ten Steps for Planning in a 2.0 World (Full Text). Retrieved from https://tametheweb.com/2012/05/30/taming-technolust-ten-steps-for-planning-in-a-2-0-world-full-text/.

Stephens, M. (2016, April 22). Revisiting Participatory Service in Trying Times – a TTW Guest Post by Michael Casey. Retrieved from https://tametheweb.com/2011/10/20/revisiting-participatory-service-in-trying-times-a-ttw-guest-post-by-michael-casey/.

Zullkey, C. (2019, September 16). Automatic for the People. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2019/09/03/automatic-people-self-service-libraries/

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