Computers in Libraries offered low-fi advice on keeping patrons engaged.
This year's Computers in Libraries conference, held April 27 to 29 in Washington, D.C., was abuzz with innovation, new technology and thought-provoking ideas to integrate the latest discoveries into library programs. However, one of the most profound takeaways was from the first speech on the first day of the conference.
Steve Dennin, author of "The Leader's Guide to Radical Management," posed a key question to the audience: "How can we delight our patrons?"
In a sea of programs involving laser cutters, 3D printers and video recording equipment, this question seemed too simple. For years, many library programs focused on showcasing new technology for patrons (even Steve Denning's talk was called "Continuous Innovation and Transformation"). Denning's challenge was curious: in our efforts to impress our customers, have we forgotten to delight them?
During the conference, many librarians shared information about their impressive programs. Brandy McNeil and Steven Deolus of NYPL TechConnect showed how their program – with its own trainers, marketers and redesigned labs – transforms technology training. Gretchen LeGrand and Maya Bery shared the tools they use to introduce coding and basic engineering skills to young students. Nick Taylor and Erika Bayler of the Arapahoe Library District shared how hiring technology trainers opened new horizons for technology-specific assistance and programming. I was overwhelemed just thinking about the doors that this sparkly new technology opens for patrons.
However, despite sharing impressive electronics, presenters continued to offer similar advice: you don't need cutting-edge technology to delight your patrons. Just get them involved, show your enthusiasm, and people will be enthusiastic too.
- If it's free, it's for me! Maya Bery uses free apps from Hour of Code to teach her students about coding.
- Meet your audience where they are. Nancy Howe of the Baldwinsville Public Library set up a stand at the farmer's market with decommissioned library items. She also spends an hour a week reading to Alzheimer's patients (which, she noted, is her favorite program).
- Hit the streets. Brandy McNeil shared that one of TechConnect's most successful marketing tools for their programs is handing out fliers on the street.
At a conference focused on the latest and greatest technology in libraries, the most lasting lesson was that you don't need new technology to keep patrons interested. They are still delighted with the basics: you should hear the gasps during our library's Introduction to PowerPoint class when we cover slide transitions!
Get your patrons involved, show your own enthusiasm for your programs, and customers will be delighted with the outcome. Some of the most well-received programming is also the most low-fi; delighting our patrons is the greatest innovation.
To find more awesome programming ideas, check out Computers in Libraries' website for speaker information and presentation slides.