Four creative ways to say yes in information services

by Damaris Lewer

It is easy to become entrenched in how library services have always been done and keep telling people “sorry, we don’t have that.” However, building a dynamic library service requires actively listening for the things patrons keep asking for, seeking out opportunities for growth, and finding creative ways to say “Yes.” Instead of dismissing ideas due to existing constraints, the Meridian Library created a wish list of services and found ways to implement them using a mix of new technology, existing resources, and ingenuity.

Offering Faxing and Scanning services

The Meridian library has long been a place that helped patrons complete job applications and other important paperwork by providing access to technology, loaning out USB drives, and offering printing services. However, we did not offer faxing or scanning services and often had to refer frustrated patrons to the nearest FedEx or UPS store. Though installing a dedicated fax line was too expensive, we still wanted to meet this demand and provide a one-stop service experience to patrons. Ultimately, the Meridian library decided to try offering faxing via online service as a cost-efficient alternative. We purchased space-saving Doxie scanners ($149), which made scanning easy once connected directly to the computer.  Once scanned in, documents could be saved as PDFs and uploaded for faxing or e-mailing. We tried several online fax services. The first, FaxZero, was free but restricted faxes to three pages per fax and limited the daily number of faxes sent to five. FaxZero also required users to have an e-mail address and required them to access their e-mail after “sending” the fax to authorize the actual sending of the fax by clicking on a link. The number of steps involved in the process was difficult to explain to patrons and the page limit required us to say no to a large number of people.  Since FaxZero did not adequately meet our needs, we switched to HelloFax and subscribed to a monthly plan (19.99$ per month for up to 500 pages sent). This allowed us to fax multiple pages easily and provided added options for signing documents and e-mailing scanned documents using the online service. HelloFax does not require the sender to have an e-mail address and allows information services staff to complete the entire faxing process at the desk. Documents sometimes take up to 15 minutes after sending to arrive, but confirmation of the sent fax can be conveniently e-mailed to the patron if desired.

Color printing and copying

The option to print and copy in color has been another frequent request by patrons, and, as with faxing and scanning, we had to direct patrons to a FedEx or UPS store. Our main obstacles to offering color printing were the increased cost of the color cartridges and the lack of adequate equipment. When we replaced our old copy machine, we eliminated the technical constraint by purchasing a color copier with scanning capabilities (Konica Minolta bizhub C224e) that allows patrons to copy in either black and white or color. We set up our public computer stations with an option to print to the copier to receive color prints. Our IT staff was able to set the color printing and copying charge to 25 cents per page instead of the 10 cents charged for black and white copies using our existing SAM printing system.

15-minute Express computers

Many patrons rely on libraries for convenient online access and printer use. Unfortunately, at the Meridian Library at Cherry Lane, waiting periods for computers of up to an hour are common during afternoon peak times. Even at our Silverstone Branch, there are times of day when patrons have to sign up for the computer wait list. Having to wait is particularly frustrating for those who only need to print a coupon or check their e-mail for a minute. To better accommodate short-term computer needs, we converted an existing search computer into a 15-minute Express computer that cannot be reserved. The Express computer still requires a patron to log on, but the wait to complete a quick computer task is never frustratingly long. As this computer is stand-up, patrons rarely use the computer for extended periods of time, even though they could theoretically log on repeatedly. The Express computer has worked so well that we converted a second computer at our Cherry Lane location and installed an Express station at the Silverstone branch.

Checking out Leapsters and early-literacy iPads

Since we began offering e-book and e-audiobook check-outs via Overdrive, patrons have often asked library staff for help using their various electronic devices, or sought out input on which device to purchase. We have provided assistance on setting up and using electronic devices, and provided an assortment of devices patrons could preview at the library as part of a “technology petting zoo.” In an effort to allow patrons to take home electronic devices and try them out for a longer period of time, we began to experiment with checking out Leapsters and iPads to the public in May 2013. With the goal of combining access to technology with exposure to fun and educational early literacy resources, we pre-loaded the devices with a selection of early literacy apps. (For a full list of the apps loaded onto our devices, see Appendix A).

Because the Leapsters had limited space, we split up the pre-loaded apps available on each device by topic—reading, math, science, and miscellaneous. While patrons were initially interested in the different Leapsters, demand dwindled within a few months to a few people who liked the devices and continued to come back for repeat check outs. Some patrons gave feedback that the Leapsters were prone to bugs and did not work reliably. Staff was also less excited about the Leapsters, since they are more work-intensive to recirculate. Since users are able to create multiple visitor accounts, the devices have to be reconfigured by IT staff each time they are returned. The iPads on the other hand have continued to be very popular, with about two thirds of the available devices checked out at the moment. The iPads require minimal maintenance: on check-in, we simply delete the browser history and delete any pictures. After re-charging, they are ready to be recirculated.

To facilitate efficient circulation, all electronic devices are set up so patrons cannot download new apps or delete existing ones. The devices circulate in zipper bags with chargers included. To ensure patrons understand their responsibilities in checking out an electronic device, they are required to fill out a form (see Appendix B and C) acknowledging that they understand the terms of use and that they are responsible for any damages. Devices circulate for 14 days and late fees are assessed at five dollars per day after a two-day grace period to encourage prompt return. Unlike our other library materials, which patrons from local LYNX consortium libraries can place on hold and request to have sent to their home library , electronic devices cannot be put on hold to prevent damage from transporting them in the courier. Overall, checking out electronic devices has been both popular and successful. None of the devices have been returned with damages, and we look forward to expanding the service in the future to include electronic device check outs geared towards tweens, teens, and adults.

Damaris Lewer is the Assistant Branch Manager at the Meridian Library @ Silverstone

Appendix A

Leapster Apps

Reading

  • Casey Cat Has a Hat
  • Finding Nemo: Lost and Found
  • Letter Factory Flash Cards
  • Clifford’s Rhyme Race
  • Super Why!: Royal Reading

Math

  • Cha Cha Chicken
  • Monkey Soccer: Math League
  • Team Umizoomi: Street Fair Mix Up
  • Math Adventure to the Moon
  • LeapSchool Math
  • Number Bash

Science

  • Busy Builder
  • Carnival Construction
  • Disney-Pixar Finding Nemo: Reef Builder
  • Garden Love
  • Scholastic Bug Genius
  • Scholastic Magic School Bus Dino Shuffle

Miscellaneous

  • Caillou: Outdoor Fun
  • Coloring with Leap, Tad, & Tilly
  • Cool Blox: Penguins on Tour
  • Sesame Street: Travel Songs

iPad Apps

  • ABC Theater: The Alphabet Song
  • Adding Apples HD
  • Alphabet Fun
  • AlphaBooks HD
  • Animaux en Pieces HD
  • Another Monster at the End of this Book
  • Ansel & Clair: Jurassic Dinosaurs
  • Art Maker by ABC’s Play School
  • Barefoot World Atlas
  • Bobo Explores Light
  • Bug Zoo HD
  • Children’s Picture Dictionary – A to Z Flash Cards
  • Color Uncovered
  • Counting with the Very Hungry Caterpillar for iPad
  • Critter Corral: Math learning games for preschool and pre-k
  • Curious George at the Zoo for iPad
  • Cyberchase 3C Builder
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Run this App!
  • Dr. Suess Bookshelf
  • Draw Along with Stella and Sam
  • Easy Studio – Animate with Shapes!
  • Elmo Loves 123s
  • Endless Alphabet
  • Faces iMake – Right Brain Creativity
  • Felt Board
  • Fish School HD – by Duck Duck Moose
  • Geography Drive USA
  • Grow a Reader
  • iLuv Drawing Animals – Learn how to draw 40 animals step by step
  • KIDS DISCOVER SPACE
  • Kids Maps – U.S. Map Puzzle
  • Musical Me! HD – by Duck Duck Moose
  • My Story – Book Maker for Kids
  • OM Bookshelf
  • Pete the Cat: School Jam
  • Press Here: the App
  • Puzzleography: World Geography Puzzle Game
  • Reading Rainbow
  • The Sneetches – Dr. Seuss
  • Tacky the Penguin
  • Toca Band
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: the Experience
  • Where’s My Water?
  • Wild about Books

Appendix B

Electronic Device Agreement – Leapster

My signature below indicates that I am 18 years of age or older and have read the Electronic Device Agreement and the Electronic Device Guidelines and that I abide by these conditions of use when checking out an Electronic Device by the Meridian Library District:

I agree to accept full responsibility for the Electronic Device while it is checked out to me.

  • I will not tamper with the Electronic Device, accessories, and digital books, attempt to load digital books, or attach any equipment not designed for use with the Electronic Device.   INITIALS _____
  • I will not place the Electronic Device in any of the book drops, but will return the Electronic Device and all accessories to the Meridian Library at Cherry Lane Circulation Desk, the Meridian Library at Silverstone Circulation Desk, or the Bookmobile. If I place the Electronic Device in a book drop, I will be subject to      financial penalties and will not be able to check out an Electronic Device in the future.   INITIALS _____
  • I will pay a late fee of $5.00 per day if I fail to return this Electronic Device to the appropriate desk by the date due.   INITIALS _____
  • I accept full financial liability for the Electronic Device and accessories, while in my possession. INITIALS _____
  • I agree to pay all costs associated with damage to, loss of, or theft of the Electronic Device while it is checked out to me. INITIALS _____
  • I agree that the Library may use any appropriate means to collect the amount owed for fees, damage, loss, or theft of the Electronic Device and that my record will be submitted to collections within 30 days. INITIALS _____
  • I acknowledge that failure to to pay any amount owing will be considered an outstanding debt to the Meridian Library District and will be added to my library record. INITIALS _____
  • I agree that failure to comply with any of these rules and guidelines will result in the in the loss of the privilege of borrowing an Electronic Device. INITIALS _____
Customer Name:  ___________________________________Customer Address:  _________________________________Customer   Signature:_________________________________

Customer Library Card Number:_______________________

Date:__________________

1. Leapster Explorer   ($70.00)2. Leapster power cord   ($9.00)3.leapster charging unit ($40.00)

4. Bag ($2.00)

STAFF PORTION

Staff Initials:   __________

Device barcode number:   _________________

Due   Date ____________________

The check out limit is one Electronic Device per household at any given time.  The Library reserves the right to refuse service to anyone who abuses equipment or is repeatedly late in returning Electronic Devices or who places the Electronic Devices in the book drops.

Appendix C

Electronic Device Agreement – iPad Mini

My signature below indicates that I am 18 years of age or older and have read the Electronic Device Agreement and the Electronic Device Guidelines and that I abide by these conditions of use when checking out an Electronic Device by the Meridian Library District:
I agree to accept full responsibility for the Electronic Device while it is checked out to me.

    • I will not tamper with the Electronic Device, accessories, and digital books, attempt to load digital books, or attach any equipment not designed for use with the Electronic Device.   INITIALS _____
    • I will not place the Electronic Device in any of the book drops, but will return the Electronic Device and all accessories to the Meridian Library at Cherry Lane Circulation Desk, the Meridian Library at Silverstone Circulation Desk, or the Bookmobile. If I place the Electronic Device in a book drop, I will be subject to financial penalties and will not be able to check out an Electronic Device in the future.   INITIALS _____
    • I will pay a late fee of $5.00 per day if I fail to return this Electronic Device to the appropriate desk by the date due.  INITIALS _____
    • I accept full financial liability for the Electronic Device and accessories, while in my possession.  INITIALS _____
    • I agree to pay all costs associated with damage to, loss of, or theft of the Electronic Device while it is checked out to me. INITIALS _____
    • I agree that the Library may use any appropriate means to collect the amount owed for fees, damage, loss, or theft of the Electronic Device and that my record will be submitted to collections within 30 days.
    • INITIALS _____
    • I acknowledge that failure to pay any amount owing will be considered an outstanding debt to the Meridian Library District and will be added to my library record. INITIALS _____
    • I agree that failure to comply with any of these rules and guidelines will result in the in the loss of the privilege of borrowing an Electronic Device.   INITIALS _____
Customer   Name:__________________________________Customer   Address:________________________________Customer   Signature:_______________________________

Customer Library Card   Number:______________________

Date:__________________

iPad Mini ($338.00)iPad Mini case   ($64.00)iPad Mini charging unit- USB cord and AC charger ($9.00)

Bag ($2.00)

STAFF PORTION

Staff Initials:   __________

Device barcode number:   _________________

Due   Date ____________________

The check out limit is one Electronic Device per household at any given time.  The Library reserves the right to refuse service to anyone who abuses equipment or is repeatedly late in returning Electronic Devices or who places the Electronic Devices in the book drops.

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