Taking Advantage of the Opportunities Presented by Emerging Technologies
The other day I was tinkering (no pun intended), with a 3D printer my library had recently purchases, and I started thinking about the opportunities that these new technologies provide. While most people still think of libraries as a place to get “books”, we are increasingly acting as a hub for innovation, empowering individuals, communities, and businesses by providing them with access to emerging technologies, and connecting them with the resources and training they need to stay competitive in a global information economy. Over the past month alone my library has provided classes on everything from using Instagram as a marketing tool and how to use TinkerCad, to letting people try out the Oculus Rift!
So, from 3D printing, QR codes, and interactive visual displays, here are some examples of how patrons are already using these technologies along with a few ideas I came up with to leverage emerging technologies to enhance your patron’s educational, economic, and entertainment opportunities.
- 3D printing – 3D printing uses an additive processes in which successive layers of material, which can be anything from mental to wood, are laid down under computer control. In theory, if you can design it, using Computer Assisted Design or CAD, you can print it. There are a number of ways in which patrons are already making use of this, from students designing and printing their own telescope for an astronomy class, local businesses using them for rapid prototypes, to one inspired individual who printed off a prosthetic limb for a family friend! Other ideas are to have local businesses create some demo products and display them, or have student set up an art exhibit with items they printed. You could even, if you’re feeling really creative, have a 3D printed culinary contest!
- Proximity Marketing using NFC – Libraries are already enabling their patrons to specify their preferences in book and movies to help their searches, so why not extend that to the books and movies themselves? It would take some doing, and a bit of funding besides (you’d also have to chip or create a QR code for every item), but when done, all a patron would have to do is enter their preferences into their account, and when they passed by an item that fits their criteria, they would get an alert on their phone with a brief synopsis of the item in question. Add this to a Google Glass, and suddenly you’ve got a fully interactive catalog that adapts to the individual needs of the user!
- Cell Phone Book Clubs – Today most teens have cell phones, but the majority of them don’t realize they can download library e-books for free on their phones. A cell phone book club enables the library to reach out to people who are already heavily invested in their phone, and could even help draw in more males (a problem we’ve all experienced, the attendees to my book discussion groups were mostly all women who were already retired or about to). You could even have a two-way video if your patron’s Wi-Fi connection is robust enough! Add in a pizza party at set intervals and you’re golden!
- Digital Engagement – Libraries are already using social media, from Instagram, Vine, and Twitter to advertise their services and programs, but all too often they seem to be an afterthought to the programs themselves rather than an integral part of them. There are a number of way to use social media to its fullest potential including streaming programs for patrons who can’t make it, creating MOOCs of classes that are in high demand, and creating posters with a scannable QR code that bring up a short clip of what a program will be about. One idea I’ve been playing with recently, mostly because my library doesn’t have one of these yet, is to link an interactive visual display with our social media accounts to showcase upcoming events at the library.
- Better Health through Better Data – I recently bought a Fitbit and have been fascinated at how it has improved my eating habits and the amount of exercise I get (by which I mean I now might go out for a short walk). Wearables are becoming increasingly popular, from the aforementioned Fitbit to Android’s new smartwatch. By combining the data generated by these devices with programs focused on healthy recipes, or maybe even bring in your local yoga instructor or partnering with the corner health food store, the library can provide its patrons an interactive and fun way to get in shape and stay healthy.
These are only a few ways you can use emerging technology to provide your library’s user community with the skills and knowledge they need to stay economically competitive today, along with have some fun along the way. Here are some additional links I thought would be relevant: