6 ways to enhance the experience at a library with beacon technology
December 7, 2017
Companies have used beacons to sell everything, from currency exchange at airports to designer handbags at Macy’s. And in the last year, we have seen a lot of libraries, such as The Boston Athenaeum in Boston, Orlando’s Orange County Library System and more, leverage beacons to enhance the experience of their patrons.
Libraries have tried a handful of legacy techniques to engage with its patrons, but with limited success – large posters at the entrance, newsletters to the mailing list etc. But none of these could match the success of contextual beacon campaigns. A newsletter might not necessarily be useful to every patron, but a notification about a new fiction book in the library while she is looking for books in the fiction aisle, is obviously relevant and useful.
“Beacon notifications are like a little virtual tap on the shoulder”, says Debbie Moss, assistant director of the Orange County Library System in Orlando [Source]. Not just that, beacons are helping library owners remind people of the importance of libraries in the community and showcase the wide range of services and resources they offer.
In this blog, we will be talking about a host of valuable beacon solutions that enhance the user experience of patrons. Some of the use cases might be specific to iBeacon where the library needs to have their own app, but for all other use cases, you do not even need apps for communicating with patrons. Beacons which are capable of pushing notifications even without apps are the Eddystone beacons.
1.Locate items from “my favourite list” –
Most library catalogues have a ‘favourite’ function on their apps, where patrons can add items to a list. When your patron walks into your library, present directions to each of the available items on their list.
2. A self-guided virtual tour –
Set up beacons at key points around the library, and send patrons off on a tour. When they get to each location, their phone plays them videos, or audio, and gives them more information on how to get the most from that area.
You could also add fun quizzes, facts and videos at different sections to make your patrons’ experience worthwhile and fun.
The TU Delft Library is the first library in Europe that gives an interactive tour to the readers. Apart from the increase in engagement of the library, this library tour app was also nominated for the “innovation for information award”
The Sabae library in Japan has installed 131 beacons in two stories. This installation not only helps in locating books and aisles but also helps readers navigate through the library.
3. An enriched experience of a manuscript that can’t be touched –
Give access to the entire document in digital format, when your patrons are near the glass case, displaying the rare and precious manuscript, that can’t be touched. The beacon notification could also link to an audio of expert analysis by the librarian.
4. Contactless payment of the fine-
Push a notification to readers who owe a fine to the library. This notification with a link directs patrons to the payment page. This not only helps in reducing friction in the process but also saves the readers from paying the late fine.
Not just contactless fine payment, you could also remind them that they have items on due.
“Many people were pleasantly surprised by the reminder of having a book on the hold shelf. They were saying ‘wow I did not realize this is what was going to happen’. Others were excited to know what events were going on in the library that day. They all like the idea that the information was sent to them automatically.” said Richard Loomis, Digital Services Manager at SCLSNJ
5. Direct patrons to special displays, programs and events
Most libraries, apart from storing books, organize events, such as storytelling, book discussion etc, and educational programs for children, teens and adults. With beacons deployed in the library, information about these events and special displays is just taps away.
You could also provide a link to book a slot for these events.
6. Find out foot traffic patterns and redesign accordingly
Most libraries have a general idea about the daily traffic in their facility, but beacon campaigns gather definitive data, giving you hard numbers for taking strategic decisions for the facility. It could be optimizing the staff, understanding genre patterns and spotting opportunities.
Large library facilities can utilize this data to figure out which areas of the library people visited the most each day.