Panlibus Blog

Getting information to library users in ways that make sense to them

With apologies for the plethora of Michaels and Crunches in this sentence… Michael Casey at LibraryCrunch picks up Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch post about Teleflip, and he considers possibilities for the deployment of such a product in the service of library users.

He covers the use of text messages to inform borrowers about holds, overdues, and similar traditional library messages; something that Talis already handles with Talis Message.

“What really got me thinking was how we could use this in libraries. Without having to purchase any additional equipment or software, we could use the customer’s cell number (with their permission, of course) to send reminders about holds, late items, etc., by simply entering their cell number (plus into the email notification field in our ILS software. From that point on, all messages would arrive as SMS text messages, right on their cell phone.”

As Gordon Fowler comments in response to Michael (Casey)’s post, the use of text messages to reach library users is surely only the beginning, but we have a long way to go to reach a model whereby any user can (easily!) select from a battery of communications methods for talking to the library, receiving information from the library, or conversing with the library. They will also, of course, need to be able to easily – and probably frequently – change their preference.

And – before anyone else says it! – we need to continue to offer broadly comparable levels of service to those unwilling or unable to use and configure a mobile phone.

Today, something like Talis Message is associated quite closely with a third party capable of sending the text messages on the library’s behalf. In a Web/Library 2.0 world, companies such as Teleflip (which appears only to work in the USA?) or e-txt should be able to market their message-sending capabilities aggressively, offering different capabilities – or prices – to individual libraries in such a way as to make it easy and painless to switch from one provider to another as and when a compelling opportunity to do so arises.

Tools are becoming ever better at coping with notions of ‘presence’, and adapting the ways in which they behave depending upon where we are, what we’re doing, and what the source of any external contact might be. More than four years ago, my mobile/cell phone was capable of being switched from a ‘normal’ mode (in which it just rang), to an outdoor mode (in which it rang loudly), to a meeting mode (in which it either vibrated, or shunted calls straight to voicemail). I had to do the mode switching, though, and I had to remember to do it. The phone was also capable of handling calls from various people in different ways, and at that particular time was set to always allow calls through from one number, ringing just as loudly as it could to drag me out of whatever meeting I found myself in, and home for the arrival of a baby. In the end, I never got to find out if it worked, nor to experience the glares of fellow meeting attendees who would doubtless assume I’d carelessly forgotten to switch the phone to silent (as if!) rather than knowing the truth of my clever and careful programming…

As products such as Microsoft’s latest battery of communications tools become better at coping with notions of ‘presence’, deciding whether my desk or mobile/cell phone rings in response to a call, and making decisions as to which device should receive IM traffic, we begin to move to a world in which some of these distinctions can be handled automatically, on our behalf.

How far (quite?) are we from a situation in which I might receive an e-mail if sat at my desk, or a text message if on the road? Do we want such a world?

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One Response

  1. LibraryCrunch Says:

    Easily Pushing Info Via Text Message

    TechCrunch drew my attention to a service by Teleflip that allows you to SMS (text message) anyone’s cell phone without needing to know who their carrier is by simply sending an email to their cell number by adding…

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