Continuing on the city libraries theme:
My prior post — referencing the findings of the City’s audit department — painted a somewhat bleak picture of the future for our 20 city-operated libraries.
A lot of what the audit appears to suggest (aside from larger governance issues) is that the branch has trouble with engaging the public in a way that results in an increased use of facilities and materials.
The post struck a nerve with at least a few people who are adamant our libraries are (I quote) “a vital part of society” and need public support.
So, aside from outreach campaigns and conducting surveys, how does a $25-million city department go about addressing the serious issues it faces?
You innovate. You go to where the people are and reach them how they like (or have become accustomed to) to being reached.
And, according to city tender documents, the libraries branch is poised to do just that.
By early February, the city hopes to find someone who will craft a mobile application for the libraries branch that could ultimately put the department in the pocket of any Winnipegger with a smartphone running Apple iOS, Android and BlackBerry systems.
In the documents, the city asks prospective bidders to fill out a questionnaire that shows library management is clearly taking a forward-thinking approach to solving its problems:
The Contractor shall supply a multi-platform mobile library application that works on multiple platforms (iPhone, Android and Blackberry) that integrates directly with Horizon ILS. Bid application must also include information regarding each of the following areas:
1 Provide details on how the library application can be personalized and branded to fit in with an individual library system’s look and feel. Also describe whether text can be resized on a user’s mobile device.
2 Describe the added content (book covers, reviews, summaries) and crowd sourcing (awards lists, recommendations, bestseller lists) that your application provides access to. Also describe the content management tools available with your application.
3 Does your application provide access to OverDrive ebook collections? If so, describe what type of access is provided.
4 How much file size is required on a user’s device for installation?
5 Does the application offer the ability to scan ISBNs and check library availability of items?
6 Describe whether your application integrates with social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and whether a library’s RSS feed of events is accessible.
7 Describe how contact information for libraries is located and displayed (ie. hours and phone numbers) as well as what library locator or proximity suggestion is used.
8 Describe how the library application integrates with the library catalogue and indicate what types of searches can be performed (keyword, limiting, advanced search) and whether holds can be placed on items.
9 Describe what usage statistics are available and how statistics are accessed. Indicate if number of patrons using the application, number of times customers access the application and average connect time for users is among the available statistics.
10 Describe the process and time requirement for implementation of your mobile application as well as a description of what WPL staff can expect in terms of time and expertise required to set up the mobile app. Include information on how long the set up phase typically takes.
11 Define any network or firewall rules.
12 As new mobile device platforms come out on the market, describe how your company will deal with these new technologies.
Deadlines for bid submissions close 4 p.m. CT on Feb. 7
Crowd sourcing, social networking via FB and (my beloved) Twitter, (possible on the go) access to eBooks. Personalized content.
From a management POV: access to comprehensive user stats that could help form the backbone of future programming decisions. I, for one, congratulate the city for choosing to innovate.
I’ll be first “in line” (online?) to download.
Addition: 12:26 p.m. — Vancouver’s public library has an iPhone app that may illustrate in pictures some of the things the city is attempting to do: