A Web presence for every library
The Innovation Lab also explores new services focused on the needs of specific segments of the library community. We are ready to share our work to date on a very early, experimental service aimed at providing a low cost and easy-to-use Web site service for small and rural public libraries and are looking for feedback and direction from the library community. Investigations into this type of service have started before at OCLC and elsewhere, but have often stumbled due to the challenges inherent in starting with an existing service and adapting it. Understanding this, we took a different, non-traditional path to exploring this opportunity.
In our first rounds of analysis, we wanted to start by visiting the Web sites of the types of libraries we wished to partner with--public libraries with 10 or fewer staff which represents roughly 25% of the U.S. public library community. It was a surprise to me that most of these 2,000-or-so libraries have no working or discoverable web presence. A full 20 years after the invention of the Web, every library deserves to have a presence on the Internet. This became our inspiration. In parallel with the initial analysis, we started a set of staff prototyping efforts. At the beginning of each week, for four consecutive weeks, various staff brought prototypes of software but also of service models and even new service announcements. At the end of the four weeks, we selected some of the most compelling ideas and set out to develop an experimental release by January.
As an experimental service, this is intended to be suggestive of future possibilities. It exists, at this stage, to attract feedback, advice and contributions from the community for the community (YouTube introduction). Anticipated initial features could include:
- A pre-populated, template driven Web site for every public library in the US.
- Every library can claim their site and modify its contents.
- A mobile presentation for every library.
- Access to a selection of open access, electronic full text content for users with no staff effort.
- Simple inventory management in the cloud based on the power of WorldCat.
- Simple patron management service (for those without a current solution).
- Simple lending functionality (check out, check in, hold, cancel, renew).
Our hope is that this will be an affordable way for small libraries to participate in the OCLC cooperative and leverage the value of our members' combined resources.
To see the experimental service, come see us at ALA Midwinter on Sunday, January 9 at 5-7 pm in the OCLC Blue Suite in the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel. We will release a publicly accessible (still experimental!) version at that time. Remember, this is really, really early. Some things will work, some will not. To provide feedback, please email directly to the OCLC Innovation Lab at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to find some early adopters that are willing to push the limits and represent their small library in this environment and define a sustainable future.
It is now up to you to help us answer "Where should we go from here?"
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