This month has seen several interesting, sort of related, conversations happening on Twitter.
The concept of a continuum of customers – from public to school to tertiary to special libraries. We often focus only on our customer base – those people who are currently using our systems & resources – instead of seeing a much bigger picture, where the customer base we currently have is actually part of a much bigger library customer base. And our interactions with them form only a small part of their overall experience with libraries.
Often people start out using libraries as kids (public), then they move into education (school) and maybe onto post-secondary education (tertiary), and then sometimes they come back as adult users of the (public) library, and depending on their workplaces, they may encounter a workplace library (special).
How and when they use the library in their life is somewhat irrelevant, because the point is that for them, each of these types of libraries is part of their continuum of library interactions. And how we as librarians represent the industry and profession impacts of their potential future use of libraries.
So instead of competing against other parts of the library & information industry for customers, why aren’t we looking for ways to collaborate? We share the same customers/members/users/patrons, so why aren’t we approaching this collaboratively? Instead of thinking as these people as distinct entities, they are one and the same.
The other notion which came up was a lifetime library card. The point is that you only get one card. Ever. You treat it as valuable, important, useful and just as critical to your adult existence as a bank card or a driver’s license or bus card.
You could make it so you can choose one design as a kid, and you get two free replacements in your lifetime, so when you decide as a teenager that you want a slightly less childlike design, then you can use one of your free upgrades. And then as an adult, you get to choose again. Or, like some banks have done, you can actually make up your own design. Yes it would cost a small amount to do so, but you can choose to personalise your card.
Some folks out there in the Twitterverse are thinking along similar lines to me, so it was nice to have some back & forth about possible applications & implications of these kinds of ideas.