While reviewing the library’s website hit statistics with our Director the other day I was struck by how many people come to the site. Now compared to huge web-based companies or multi-national corporations are numbers are insignificant. But let’s not compare apples to oranges, for a small rural library in a mountain community our numbers are striking. During the first part of January of this year alone the SLFL was averaging 66 visits a day! Not hits, but visits. People came and searched out information.
Libraries have been turning to the web for a while now and the SLFL is no different. For libraries the real question is rapidly becoming how do they want to use web-based technology; and having a very robust website allows for a number of different things.
Everyone now understands that a website can be used as an informational tool. The site provides basic information such as hours and contact information. In addition, the website can be used for marketing of programs and services, which is the next step beyond simple information. Moving along that continuum a website can also be used to provide services, such as renewals and request. Some libraries also included multi-media technologies such as pod and vod casts. These are all basic web-based technologies used by many libraries. They are also all basic one-way services.
But there is another way to view and use web based technologies. It is also possible for libraries to step even further into web based tools by providing interactive components such as wikis and blogs were the visitor becomes engaged with the information being provided by the library and responds directly to that information. The response can be real time, such as using mebo for reference questions or it can be delayed such as in the example given above with the use of wikis or comments to blogs.
The important component to keep in mind is that power of the tool is being used to move beyond the physical limits of having to actually stand at the main circulation desk. You are also not limited to just audio exchanges as with a phone. With an internet connection you can now engage both the librarian and the services s/he can provide from any location. And for the small, relatively isolated community that we serve the use of these tools makes the library more accessible, more responsive and more engaging to our far-flung patrons.