3 Ways to Use Technology to Reach Remote Patrons
There are many reasons why members of your community may not be able to visit the library, including distance from a library branch, lack of transportation, physical disability and busy schedules. A community member’s inability to frequent your brick-and-mortar branches does not imply a disinterest in the services and resources you provide. In fact, people without access to the physical library can feel excluded from the services and resources your library offers, even though they’re actively in need of them. In this post, we’ll explore three ways you can make it easier for underserved populations to engage with your library.
1. Supplement Your Physical Collection With Digital Content
Since not all of your patrons are able to make it into your branch to take advantage of your resources, take your resources to them! Pew Research Center reports that roughly 9 out of 10 American adults use the internet, so you can easily expand your library’s reach by including both print and digital content in your collection.
This digital content can take the form of virtual copies of popular magazines offered through services like Zinio, e-books offered through providers like OverDrive or even interactive training programs like BrainHQ™, which is offered to public libraries through Demco Software. Your library is a community hub rather than a physical space full of shelves of books, so be sure that your collection reflects this by balancing resources of all types and formats.
Once you’ve built a collection that’s accessible to your remote patrons, spread the word about the availability of these resources. This will probably require you to venture to where they are to get the word out. Your local partners, like community centers, county agencies and senior centers, may be willing to let you post flyers that promote your library’s mobile app or online resources, host a few of your staff members for a library card sign-up and mobile app download day or host a health program during which you train participants on your BrainHQ resource.
2. Centralize e-Resources in a Mobile App
Remember how Pew Research said that 9 in 10 American adults use the internet? Well, more than 1 of those 10 are “smartphone only” internet users. These adults are connected to the internet, but they do not have traditional home internet service and likely use their smartphones for most of their web browsing. Smartphone-only internet usage is especially common among younger adults, people of color and lower-income Americans.
Ensuring that your resources are available online is a great first step, but what’s even better is offering a seamless mobile experience with your library. Demco DiscoverMobile, the next generation of library mobile apps, can help. It presents library information in the increasingly popular at-a-glance format, streamlining how patrons browse collections and interact with your online resources. Patrons expect a modern interface with on-demand access to resources — give them just that with a mobile app.
3. Support In-person Programming With Online Alternatives
Participating in your reading program doesn’t have to require visits to the library’s physical branches. With an online reading program management tool like Wandoo Reader, you can challenge readers to log minutes, books and even activities — all online. Kirkwood Public Library (MO) has found great success using Wandoo Reader’s Challenges — activities that encourage literacy — to keep all patrons interested in their summer reading program. Even if Kirkwood patrons can’t attend events hosted at the library, they still work toward their reading goals by tracking books and minutes read and completing Challenges, such as submitting book reviews or taking photos of their favorite places to read — all through the online program.
“Overall, Wandoo Reader has helped us expand our reach, since we can now engage patrons of all ages who aren’t able to visit the library’s physical branch,” shared Emma DeLooze-Klein, Kirkwood’s Director of Adult and Community Services, in a recent interview about her library’s unique approach to community engagement. “We’re excited to say that our reading programs have drawn some of our community members in for their first-ever visit to the library, helping us boost in-branch traffic as well.”
Learn more about how Kirkwood reaches remote patrons with Wandoo Reader in this case study.