July 14, 2017

Where are your users? Are you there, too?

At NoveList, we talk about reaching readers where they are. We talk about this because we know libraries are talking about this -- and seeking solutions. The ways people are learning about events and resources in their community is expanding, making it hard for libraries to keep up.

Hard, but not impossible. Libraries are responding by creating visibility plans to help them reach out to their entire community. Linked Library Service is one part of this bigger picture.

Whether a daycare, bookmobile, newsletter, or food festival, the goal of outreach has always been to reach the members of your community who either don’t or can’t come to you. Changing technology created a need for a library’s website to become part of its outreach strategy. Email has made e-newsletters a regular part of library outreach. Library-specific apps have blossomed as smart phones become more prevalent.

Each of these types of outreach answer the basic question: “What does my public library have for me?” at a patron's point of need.

The semantic web means that the libraries have been provided with new outreach opportunity. While libraries need website and catalogs, the changing web and the role linked data place has the potential to flip that question to an answer -- from “what does my public library have for me” to “I’m looking for X and I can see my library has it.” And all it will take from the community member is a web search.

Even more exciting, this opportunity adds a new channel to your library’s outreach strategy. That’s a greater return on the investments your library has already made with no added staff time, or new buildings. As part of this new strategy, your library has the potential to reach both users *and* non-users at their immediate point of need, when library resources are most relevant to a question important to them enough to search it.

As libraries (and NoveList) talk about linked data, keeping this greater ecosystem of outreach in mind is key. Is *your* library reaching out to find all your potential users, no matter where they are?

Jennifer Lohmann is a NoveList Consultant.


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