Quick access:

Go directly to content (Alt 1) Go directly to first-level navigation (Alt 2)

Digital tools and users' reactions
Digitalisation helps libraries extend their borders

During the 2020 crisis libraries have had a chance to become an entry point to the digital world for many service users. Digital technologies can give libraries a distinguished role in the life of modern society.

By Daria Klenova

The recent lockdown could have been disastrous for public libraries had they not chosen to become extra resourceful. Despite the unpredictable changes, librarians came to see that lockdown and other restrictions could be an opportunity. Libraries were unable able to offer their full range of services while their physical buildings were closed. After the initial shock libraries began to implement measures to enable them to continue to fulfil their main mission – to reach out to people beyond the library walls.

This led to a meaningful increase in e-book borrowing and visits to libraries’ network pages, as well as a huge increase in YouTube signups. All public library events for groups such as schools and colleges, young parents, and business people moved online. This also made it possible to broaden the audience for library activities. Enhanced digital technologies allowed library users to attend a variety of book clubs, cooking classes and craft workshops. What’s more, people who for health reasons had been unable to visit libraries in person, had many more possibilities to participate in community life when the range of online activities increased.
 

Users become accustomed to the library being more digitalised and not all people find their way back to physical services.

During 2020 it became apparent that libraries faced new challenges concerning digitalisation. The first challenge related to the impossibility of physically distributing library resources. Other challenges arose as libraries significantly redesigned their services to add value to them and to satisfy and in some cases to form users’ needs.

As the process of digitalisation progresses, fewer service users tend to choose physical services like book lending or event visiting, preferring services that can be accessed online. Users become accustomed to the library being more digitalised and not all people find their way back to physical services. The good news is that some people have increased their presence at the library by using digital resources as well as physical library facilities. However, the tendency for people to substitute physical services with digital ones cannot be ignored.

After reopening, libraries did not stop building on the capacity of their digital services. The digital part of their work has become an ongoing process.
 

The aims of digital tools in libraries can be classified in three ways: making services easier to access and use; helping users learn new skills; inspiring and informing customers.

Access to the library via a widely available app can positively affect the image of a library as an attractive and accessible place for visitors. Among the huge variety of apps used by retailers and libraries, users prefer those that are readily available and enable them to multitask. So libraries may join Google street view tour to provide the option of a virtual walk through the library, enabling users to see the layout of the library.

The development of bookmark apps for libraries have also yielded good results. A bookmark app or a so called ‘digitalised librarian’ helps to direct users towards the literature they are looking for or allows them to keep track of their lending activity in an interesting and interactive way. These apps can be useful for users who may struggle to locate books inside the library.

Another idea of how libraries can go deeper into the digital world is the possibility for them to replace crowd-sourced sites like Wikipedia. This can help to create better and more accurate content for similar online resources.

Librarians need to understand the connection between digital and traditional attitudes towards library books. Projects like Fingerlink that let readers use digital tools to work with printed books may satisfy those who are still unsure of their digital preferences.

The aims of digital tools in libraries can be classified in three ways: making services easier to access and use; helping users learn new skills; inspiring and informing customers. A specific way to reach these goals is to offer library users a chance to learn some of the most progressive technology around. Any library can start with 3D design and printing to create a Fablab for their users.

This was just a glimpse of some measures taken by librarians all over the world to deliver information through digital services, showing how this enhances their everyday work. It is great that libraries are improvising and also learning from other world digital players every day. Libraries as institutions have always been about sharing skills, culture and knowledge. The pandemic of 2020 has been a trigger for libraries to extend their borders, to become even more client-focused and learn new ways of engaging with users, providing them with services that make people’s lives richer. Libraries must continue to adapt to digital advances in future in order to continue to meet customer demand.

Top