Doing the old things – for traditions sake?

Its Day 12 of the 30 blog posts in 30 days challenge and my pondering today came out of a walk with the dog.

I regularly walk the dog past a water basin in our area, which is heavily fenced off, with a double locked gate being the only entry. More often than not, the fencing is peeled back from the gates or the gates have been knocked off their hinges to enable people to get through. Today, they had been fixed again, but from past history, I know that won’t last long.

So it got me wondering if there wasn’t a better way to achieve the same results. Are they just fixing the gate because that’s the way its always been? I know they are probably restricted for reasons of safety, but as people are going to break in anyway, maybe there is a way of meeting both needs?

And then I started thinking about the sorts of things we do in libraries that are parallel to this situation and I came up with memberships. We are still very much locked in to face to face membership applications. There are libraries who have ventured into online memberships, but many of them only give temporary ones until the user comes in with proof of address (at which time it is made permanent), or the application is only confirmed with the mailout of a library card to the applicant’s applied address.

At the downloadables seminar I attended on Thursday, we talked around users and how it is quite likely that in the not too distant future, we will have three distinct user groups: those who visit to access our physical collections, those who visit to use our facilities and those who only use the library virtually. (there will be overlap with all three groups of course and there are probably more that we haven’t even thought of yet)

So with the future now looking more virtual for a lot of our users, both current and potential, should we be sticking to the old tradition of having to have a physical attendance in our libraries to confirm membership or even to having a physical library card at all?

Can’t we have online memberships which require nothing more than an online application? Do we have to know where people live, particularly in Victoria where you can join any public library service for free? Do we need to know how to get a hold of people if they never take a physical item from the library? Shouldn’t we treat our virtual users more like our physical visitors who never borrow an item, but just our collections in house, or our physical facilities? How we do change how we view these members? And if they do decide to extend their membership to the physical space, how do we make this transition as easy as possible for both users and staff? And how do our LMS’s cope with this, to enable us to track use when a circulation of a physical item is not involved?

What other things are libraries doing, seemingly out of tradition, although the reasons we started have long since changed?

Just some questions that were raised from walking the dog. Hope you have some answers for me.


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    • Penny on June 12, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    In our library it’s having the course reserve material can’t be taken physically out of the library. This goes back to the days when we had so few resources. Things have changed though. We have more resources but also our customer’s expectations have changed. They want to be able to take the anatomy books to the lab for example. They would like to be able to take the laptops over to the labs too.
    Somebody once said at a library conference that “sacred cows make great hamburgers”.

  1. Good point, but I still don’t think I’m ready to let our users take the motor manuals to the garage, lol. But then again, our motor manuals in the main are no longer in print, so they are a little different.

  2. You’re welcome!

  3. While it does not answer whether physical attendance is required for membership, I thought proof of residence was required to ensure that the library is serving the market defined by its funding; and in relation particularly to virtual services, that somehow the online database access is limited to legitimate (ie geographically residential) members of the public library?

  4. Public Library’s in Victoria must make free membership available to anyone living in the State – it is a condition of State funding. So our geography ends up being wider than our local Councils. Then we have the new issue of new members joining online – until they actually come in to our buildings, we have no proof of where they are geographically – they are free to join. Interesting issues to have to deal with.

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