Promoting library services in the digital era among the children and young adults

Technology has become the key focus of our lives today. Indeed so many aspects of our behaviour are governed by the need to stay connected to the world through technology. Children and young adults no longer want to visit the library for a few hours of quiet reading. Instead, they want a quick and technology based solution to everything. In this digital era , information seeking behaviour is constantly changing and the younger generations need to be drawn in through newer, more interesting means. This applies equally to the use of the library. Librarians today, are facing challenges in making the young users aware about the library resources and services. This article discusses how the new era librarian can make an attempt to address this issue. Different means through which this threat can be made as an opportunity. This also highlights the different aspects through which a library can make the information available instantly to the fingertips of the young generation and attract them. The opportunity to use the library in a different way will directly and indirectly promote the reading habit among the children and young generation.

We are living in the age of ICE (Information Communication Entertainment) where users want a fast, technology based solutions to everything including in the use of the library.  E-learners and traditional learners now have access to a universe of digital information through the information superhighway.  This has thrown challenges to the librarians to re-evaluate the way they develop, manage, deliver and promote resources and services.

Children and young adults no longer want to visit the library physically rather they want to get things in their fingertips by clicking on the devices.  Many a times we found them reading while traveling from one place to other.  There is a huge change in the information seeking behavior and the way information is accessed by them.  To address the challenge librarians can play an important role.  If children and young adults are not coming to the library then the library should travel to them with the help of the technology which will indirectly help in promoting the reading habit among the children and youth. Librarians no longer can confined themselves to the physical library rather they need to invent new ideas which can address this issues which can help in promoting the library usage.

Now the question is how this should be done?

Technology has great potential in supporting the learning needs of the children and young adults.  Some of the following ideas may be tried out to attract the children and young adults in using the library resources which also can assist them in finding right information at the right time and can eventually attract them towards using the library.

Library webpage can play a crucial role in promoting reading in the digital era.  It should be designed such a way that it would act as “One stop Info” for any user.  It should be such that for any kind of information user should look into the web page of the library without checking anywhere else.  Now the challenge is to design such page and taking the decision as to what to include in the page and what should be excluded and how to make it attractive as well as informative.

There are various ways that may be explored to promote reading through the library web page.  Some of them are:

Web OPAC:  In the library page OPAC (on line public access catalogue) must be incorporated.  This should be a real time catalogue and should be accessible from web/mobile/tab etc.  The page may include the new books on display (images of the books should be there).  Users can easily search and get to know if any particular book is available in the library or not.  If the book is out in that case one should be able to reserve the same online.  When the book is back to the library a sms/email alert may be sent from the system itself.  An online demo may be placed on the site to help the users to search the catalogue of the library.  Online Search Techniques may be added in the demo.

Author of the month:  Every month a particular author may be promoted.  The page should be designed such a way that it can provide all the necessary information in a compact form.  To start with popular authors may be highlighted and slowly new authors may be introduced so that users can get to know about the new authors and their area of writings and can get attracted to read more books by these authors.  Also a link to the author’s page may be given so that the users can get more information if they wish.  This can be accessed any time from their mobiles/tabs/laptops/desktops etc.  

E-books:  If a library can built a collection of E-books then the link of the actual book may be given so that users can access the books online via e-reader.  Also login based access may be given.  There are quite a few free e-books collection is available online which may be linked with the Library webpage.  For making the library interesting few e-readers may be procured so that young generation users feel at home when they come to the library.  

Reader corner:  There may be a provision for the users to share their views about their reading.  Also recommendations from the users about any book/author may be included in the webpage.  A virtual reader group may be formed and a physical meet may be organized to read and discuss on a certain interval.  Library should be equipped with Tabs and other new technology gadgets to attract readers for this session.  A facilitator may be there (may be some author) to make the reader group interactive.  The pictures of the reader group (with prior permission from them) with their views may be published on the webpage to make it more interesting.

Users can recommend some books through this reader corner to their friends.  Libraries should be in a position to lend the book digitally to the requester.

Reader development Project:  A project may be run where all the children will be asked to read a book every week.  For a period of four weeks they will read four books online.  They should be able to choose from a set of e-book collection.  Library will lend a book every week digitally and users can read the book from their laptop/tab/mobile/kindle etc.  Once they complete reading four books some activities like quiz or writing competitions may be arranged online and the winner may be given some digital gadgets as a prize.  This may be published on the library website to inspire other children to participate proactively.  A physical meet of these users may be arranged which will help in sharing their views and experiences about the whole journey.  This is definitely going to attract children and young adults to read more and more books.  Some games may be incorporated on the site based on the book characters.  Children’s love of book characters not only will build skills but also will promote reading.  A chat session among the readers may be tried out through Skype.

Blog writing:  In the website there may be link to the blogs that users will write after reading library books online.  There should be someone from the library who could assist children on this.  Skilled library staff is required to coordinate this on a regular basis which is definitely going to attract young adults. Users can interact with each other to discuss a particular book through this blog.

Virtual Reference Service:  It may be a good idea to incorporate a virtual reference service.  Ask a Librarian concept may be introduced so that children can interact via their mobile/tab/laptop/desktop with the librarian from anywhere to get the required information quickly.

Event alert: If library is organizing any event for e.g. book launch, Author’s talk, video screening, web conferencing on “World-Book-Day” etc. then a pop-up message may be put on the website and an online registration may be allowed.  Same may be sent to the users via sms/email and simultaneously be published in social media.  Web-casting may be done so that users can participate online.

To provide any innovative services libraries need to plan well in advance and need to promote the same from the beginning to make it a success.  Library can start with a small project and flourish gradually in the new arena.  

Project mapping

To run these projects some of the areas need to be checked.  Some of them are:

Library Infrastructure:  Existing infrastructure needs to be checked and an assessment needs to be done about the required infrastructure including the budgetary allocation that is essential for providing the new service.

Staffing:  Proper skill development for the staff is required so that they can take up the challenge.  Also building proper behavioral competencies is required to make them feel comfortable in serving the user in a new way.

Collection development:  A vital point is to procure appropriate digital/physical collection.  A project team may be formed to decide the modalities of the new service.

Proper promotion:  Promotion needs to be done such a way so that the target group gets to know about the project and attract to participate.

A silent virtual revolution has changed the educational and information environments.  Librarians are redefining their roles, managing their migration from the print past to an online future and redefining their products and services and refocusing on their customers.  How do we position the Library in the digital era, what is the message to be conveyed to the new generation of customers,  what technologies and strategies should be used to bridge the virtual and the real worlds is to be thought out seriously.

To mitigate the need of the users uses of social media in marketing and improving website content are obvious strategies.  Designing product and promotional means for mobile devices is an essential component.  Collaborating with others and using influencers in publicizing library services will enhance the usage.  Ways of making the virtual library visible is the challenge and we librarians need to take up this challenge to survive in the new era.

Links related to the topic:
Project Gutenberg
Library of British Council India
International Children's Digital Library

Free e-books for children
Kidsworldfun, free e-books
Goodreads, best free e-books for children

Author:
Monali Mitra (Paladhi)
Deputy Librarian
The University of Burdwan
Rajbati, Bardhaman - 713 104, West Bengal
INDIA
email:
monali.paladhi@gmail.com

Libraries for Children and Young Adults, Access to information, Children, Communication, Digital resources, E-Learning, Information literacy, Information technology, Young adults, digital library, promoting library, information seeking behaviour

Last update: 10 June 2016