Stephen Abram and I were both working for SirsiDynix about 6 years ago. Stephen was VP of Innovation and I was Director of Product Strategy. We caught up again about a month ago and Stephen related some of what he'd learned from a recent survey of public perception of libraries in Ontario. He had commissioned the study as part of his library advocacy work with the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries (he's currently the Executive Director of FOPL.
There is a sense of community that runs deep among librarians. Generally speaking, they are quick to share their time and expertise, and also quick to seek inspiration and advice from their peers. It’s not surprising, then, that when we introduce librarians to Niche Academy, one of the first questions we encounter is: “How are other libraries using it?” We figured we were probably past due for a blog post highlighting what integrated tutorials look like in real-world websites at libraries that are actively using Niche Academy in their own library education mix and in their own library marketing plan.
Below you’ll find illustrations of three basic approaches from libraries currently using Niche Academy along with basic information about those libraries and the thinking behind their approach.
The Niche Academy platform provides value to libraries by helping them deliver their own educational curriculum more efficiently. The ready-to-use tutorials we offer are an essential element of that value. We get a common question when we first introduce people to the Niche Academy tutorials:
“How are your tutorials different from the tutorials provided by the vendors?”
This post highlights 5 things that differentiate our tutorials.
Libraries offer a great product to their customers.
They offer educational resources that help people solve their most pressing problems and achieve their most cherished aspirations. And, in most cases, they offer this stuff for free. How can you beat that?
I must be feeling bold this morning because I’m about to predict the future of public libraries.
Libraries of the future will become first class, publicly funded educational institutions that fill gaps in the formal or traditional education system.
Examples of those gaps include the following:
- Early childhood literacy
- Personal enrichment learning
- English as a second language
- Entrepreneurship and small business training
There’s a car dealership near where I live that has a new motto: “We Hear You”.
They have a long-running series of billboards emphasizing the message that they listen more than they talk.
At this point, those of us in the library world are familiar with many myths about the relevance of libraries in a digital world. Among politicians and the citizenry at large you’ll commonly hear a narrative that runs something like this:
- A library is a building full of books.
- Books are dead.
- Libraries are irrelevant.
All too often I hear people say, “I didn’t know xyz resource was available from the library.” Then, inevitably a little while later I hear, “How does it work?” Or worse, “I couldn’t figure it out, so I gave up.”
The other day I was talking with a good friend. He was telling me about how his high-functioning autistic son is a voracious reader. Wanting to provide a constructive outlet, he would regularly buy eBooks for his son on Amazon and he was lamenting to me how much it was costing him. I asked him why he didn’t simply use his local library. He told me his son preferred to read eBooks on his iPad, not regular books. I then went on to tell him that his library most likely had eBooks. We looked up his library and sure enough, they have OverDrive and Axis360. He can now not only provide enough books for his son, but he can do it for free.
And I'm one step ahead of the shoe shine,
Two steps away from the county line,
Just trying to keep my customers
With apologies to Simon and Garfunkle, I think there's a parallel in the public library experience. Between the demands of our funders, the heightened expectations of patrons, and the shifting forces at work in both education and entertainment... It's hard to feel like you're satisfying anyone. Here are a few thoughts, though, that may spark some useful ideas for you.