Love Your Library? Pin it!

Pinterest, a popular social media site, allows users to follow boards that they find interesting.  You pin ideas or repin ideas that you like; every time someone comments, likes, or repins your posts, ideas and users make connections.  It’s a great way to find ideas, quotes, photos, projects–nearly anything you can imagine–and it’s an excellent resource for libraries.

Libraries began using Pinterest almost at its inception, making them some of the first and most effective users.  Basically, Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board.  Libraries can create one or more boards; often, they differentiate boards for different topics or departments.  For example, the New York Public Library has a variety of boards, including ones for current events and holidays, as well as subject-specific boards, including a board for wedding ideas.  Boards vary from the highly social, community-building and marketing focused, to the highly useful, including boards that may actually help patrons find links to resources.  Other libraries, such as the Westerville Library, have extensive collections of boards, including boards for Staff Picks and quotes about reading.  Libraries clearly use Pinterest in a variety of ways–to market programs, services, and collections, to inform patrons of upcoming events, resources, and community events, etc.–but at its heart, Pinterest is about sharing ideas and images and creating community.  It’s a vital tool that is easy to use, fun, and current.

The Downside

There are several limitations to Pinterest.  First of all, it’s really for images and videos, so it’s not conducive to conducting in-depth conversations.  It isn’t a blog and shouldn’t replace one.  Also, since it is so visual, it’s important that images and videos have pizazz, or they’ll be overlooked or ignored.  Finally, copyright must be observed–it’s in a sort of fair-use gray area, so it’s important that libraries observe copyright limitations when posting material.

The Lowdown

What new knowledge, skills or understanding have you gained?  (Description)

This week, I learned about how libraries are using Pinterest.

How can you use what you have learned?  (Application)

While Pinterest is not an effective stand-alone technology, it is a supplemental social media site that libraries may use to help connect with patrons.  Based upon the user community served, it may be a very effective community-building, relationship-building tool that libraries may choose to use to enhance marketing and create relationships with the user community.  It’s definitely a resource librarians should keep in mine when selecting technologies.

How does it relate to library work?  (Reflection)

Pinterest directly relates to library work as it is a technology that libraries may use to establish relationships, connect with patrons, and market services, events, and resources.

What resources (activities) have helped you to understand and/or have been interesting to use?  (Activities/Resources)

Boyer, K.  (201).  Using Pinterest @ the library.  Public Libraries Online.  Retrieved from

Drittler, L.  (2015).  Pinterest for libraries: Building community through social media.  TechSoup.  Retrieved from

Rummel, J.  (2012).  How to use Pinterest for your library.  Voya.  Retrieved from

Szkolar, D.  (2012).  Pinterest: A new social media opportunity for libraries.  Information Space.  Retrieved from



Print-on-Demand: Every Book, its Printer?

Not every book is a best-seller, and not every thesis is destined to be a page-turner.

I am reminded this fact almost daily when cataloging items, particularly theses, that are about obscure or incredibly specific topics–I wonder how the purchase of the item, not to mention its physical occupation on a shelf or in a shelf-management system, can possibly be justified given its narrow scope.  Ultimately, it isn’t my call to make–I’m one small cog in a much larger machine dedicated to fulfilling customer orders, and so these books move on toward their ultimate destinations.  But still, I wonder at the utility and sense of their initial costs and the expenses incurred in their storage and management, and there are definitely times that I wonder if certain items will ever be checked out even a single time in their lifespan at a library.

Collection development and management is a science and an art involving data collection, statistical analysis, and patron surveying tempered with  a great deal of plain old educated guessing about what readers will want or need to read.  I realize that’s a gross oversimplification of the activity but it is, at is core, true.  Anyway, I’m not here to create a treatise on the process of managing a collection, but to discuss a technology that has the potential to change its face in some pretty exciting ways–on-demand printing.

What is Print-on-Demand?

Print-on-demand technology is exactly what it sounds like–technology that allows readers to select, print, and bind books on demand in a short period of time for a low cost.  Print-on-demand machines can be purchased outright or installed under agreement in book stores, schools, or libraries–virtually anywhere interested in hosting a location.  Users select a title from available databases of out-of-print, obscure, or sometimes even in-copyright materials, pay a reasonable fee, and wait for the machine to print and bind their book.  Print-on-demand technology can also be used as a means of self-publication.

Advantages of Print-on-Demand

Multiple public libraries are using print-on-demand technology, including the New York Public Library, University of Utah, University of Michigan, Darien Library, Brooklyn Public Library, Sacramento Public Library, and the Riverside County Library (Szkolar, 2012).  Print on demand:

  • Provides low-cost, instant access to means of self-publication,
  • Provides access to texts used in classes,
  • Provides access to ebook alternatives,
  • Provides access to out-of-print or obscure materials,
  • May help readers access books in a preferred language.  (Szkolar, 2012)

Print-on-demand is particularly useful in the context of collection development and management as it helps support one facet of patron-driven acquisitions.  According to Dorotea Szkolar, “by giving the users the ability to print and request what they want instead of having library staff predict, sometimes erroneously, avoids large unused physical collections taking up large spaces within the library” (2012, para. 5).  This, in turn, saves space, time, and money–all precious commodities for the library.  Print-on-demand also may extend the lifespan of some lesser-known, low-demand items that may otherwise stay out of print and be lost to time.

Concerns About Print-on-Demand

There are, of course, concerns about print-on-demand technology.  It is expensive–most sources list prices for machines ranging from $125,000-150,000, so the cost to purchase the technology isn’t to be taken lightly.  This pricetag may limit availability, creating a network that excludes some libraries.  Some librarians are concerned that if print-on-demand becomes too inexpensive and readily available, it may represent a threat to the continued need for libraries.  Personally, I disagree with the latter fear, but it is expressed in some blogs and articles.

The Lowdown

What new knowledge, skills or understanding have you gained?  (Description)

This week, I learned about print-on-demand technology.

How can you use what you have learned?  (Application)

Print-on-demand technology is a new and exciting option that can and has been integrated into multiple public and academic libraries.  I can use the knowledge that I have gained to discuss print-on-demand as an option for library adoption consideration.

How does it relate to library work?  (Reflection)

I think that print-on-demand represents an exciting opportunity for libraries to extend the definition of maker and idea labs.  It provides a great way to simultaneously augment and trim the library collection.  By diverting funds that may be used in preservation of out-of-print materials or acquisition of obscure items that may never be used into a print-on-demand machine, libraries may save collection costs in the long run and be able to utilize funds more effectively and creatively.  It’s also a great way to support the community through providing options for self-publication.  I think it’s a technology that libraries should seriously consider adopting.

What resources (activities) have helped you to understand and/or have been interesting to use?  (Activities/Resources)

Anderson, R.  (2013).  Print-on-demand and the law of unintended consequences.  LibraryJournal.  Retrieved from

Blummer, B. B. (2005). Opportunities for Libraries with Print-on-Demand Publishing. Journal Of Access Services, 3(2), 41-54.

Maloney, J.  (2012).  One book, light and sweet.  Wall Street Journal.  Retrieved from

Rapp, D. (2011). Print-on-Demand Meets Public Libraries. Library Journal, 136(20), 22.

Szkolar, D.  (2012).  Espresso book machines: Should libraries offer on-demand publishing?  Information Space.  Retrieved from

With a QR Here, and a QR There…

Imagine getting the whole community involved in a live, real time scavenger hunt.  Starting at the library, patrons scan a QR code that leads them to a local business.  At the business, they search for a second QR, which leads them to a third site.  And on and on they go, visiting local landmarks and patronizing community businesses, all the while interacting with new and familiar faces and connecting over a common book.

That’s just what the library staff from Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL) in Topeka, Kansas did in 2013.  As part of The Big Read initiative––a grant-funded fall reading program–TSCPL chose The Maltese Falcon and created a lot of fun events around it, including a communitywide scavenger hunt, done via QR Codes. Michael Porter and David Lee King describe the event:  “TSCPL partnered with several area businesses on this event including a chocolate store, two art galleries, a cupcake shop, and a bookstore. Participants began the scavenger hunt at the library. The first stop was to scan the QR Code by the Maltese Falcon display. Doing that gave participants a name and address of the next stop in the game. Patrons had to drive to the next site and find the QR Code” (2013, para 2).

Sounds fun, right?  But what exactly are QR codes, and how can they be used in the library?

QR Codes Explained

Quick Response (QR) Codes–also known as 2d codesj, 2d barcodes, or mobile codes–are a type of matrix barcode that can be read by smartphones and mobile phones with cameras.  They are typicaly small, black and white square codes with geometric shapes, although they can be colored or even branded.  QR codes can hold far more data than a barcode, including URLs, phone numbers, SMS messages, V-cards, or text.  Developed in the early 1990s, they are referred to as quick response codes because they can be decoded at a very high speed (Ashford, para. 3).

Creating QR Codes

QR Codes can be generated quite simply via free code generators.  Generators differ in the types of QR Codes that you can create; for example, they may allow URL, text, phone number, or SMS and provide a range of options for code sizes.  Batching is generally quick and easy, so printing codes can be as simple as a single large print job.

QR Codes and Libraries

QR Codes are convenient, low-cost, easy to implement, and easy to use–a great value for any business or library looking to get a lot of bang out of their buck.  Libraries are using QR Codes in a variety of ways, by:

  • Linking QR Codes to library audio tours for orientations,
  • Adding QR codes to printed handouts for additional information,
  • Linking to websites,
  • Affixing to media cases to link to online media,
  • Placing on books/book cases to link to author interviews or book reviews,
  • Snap and go mobile library services,
  • Tagging bookshelves to point to subject guides,
  • Creating games,

and more!

The Topeka Experiment

How did the TSCPL Scavenger Hunt end?  Admittedly, the end participation was a little bit underwhelming–only eight library patrons finished the contest in full.  But with more than 300 initially responding, library staff still considered the experiment a win.  They learned more about their user community and brought people together.  They also learned how to use–and how not to use–QR Codes in their community.  They also drew attention to the book selected for their project

The Lowdown

What new knowledge, skills or understanding have you gained?  (Description)

This week, I learned about QR codes and how they can potentially be used in libraries.

How can you use what you have learned?  (Application)

I think that QR Codes can have a variety of applications in a library environment.  From using QR Codes to provide information and links in house to creating opportunities for patrons to interact with the community, QR provides a quick, easy, and inexpensive means of connecting with patrons.

How does it relate to library work?  (Reflection)

QR Codes relate to library work because they present an opportunity for libraries to use current, popular technology in the library in novel ways.  For the technologically inclined librarian, QR presents almost endless possibilities for connection with patrons and the community.

What resources (activities) have helped you to understand and/or have been interesting to use?  (Activities/Resources)

Ashford, R.  (2010).  QR codes and academic libraries: Reaching mobile users.  College & Research Libraries News.  Retrieved from  (n.d.).  QR codes.  Retrieved from

Porter, M. & King, D.L.  (2013).  QR codes in libraries: Some examples.  Public Libraries Online.  Retrieved from

Princeton University Libraries.  (2015).  QR codes demystified:  QR codes in libraries.  Retrieved from


RFID Tags Accelerate Progress

In spite of the fact that RFID technology is not new–it’s been patented for more than three decades (Roberti, 2005)–I really had absolutely no idea what it is or how it is implemented in libraries.  This week, I decided to take a break from breaking trends and take a look instead at a solid technology that has been used by many libraries for the past decade.

What is RFID?

RFID, or radio frequency identification, allows items to be tracked with radio waves.  RFID technologies basically use radio waves to automatically identify tagged objects (Shahid, 2005).  RFID tags consist of a chip and an antenna, packaged as a thin adhesive label.  These tags can be made in a variety of shapes and sizes and adhered directly to objects such as library books (Edwards & Fortune, 2008).  Different types of tags are required for different objects.

RFID tags are used in conjunction with RFID readers or receivers, which are composed of a radio frequency module, a control unit, an an antenna.  The antenna generates an RF field; when tags pas through the field, information stored on the chip in the tag is interpreted by the reader.  The reader sends this information to a server, which communicates the information to a system, for example, a library management system.

RFID in Libraries


RFID tags are used in libraries in a variety of ways to track items.  When tags are affixed to library materials, it is much easier to follow the movement of an item.  For example, they are often used in check-in and check-out processes.  RFID can read ID tags regardless of position or orientation, which makes check-in and check-out easier and more accurate.  RFID readers can even be attached to book drop slots, so items may be checked in as soon as they pass through the slot.  Depending upon whether the tag is active or passive, tag readers may be able to activate/deactivate tags when books are checked out and returned, ensuring that a book’s status is updated almost instantaneously, without requiring staff to manually activate or deactivate the tag.  This can save a great deal of time–in one study of RFID tag use, an Australian library reported an 80% reduction in circulation procedures after the implementation of RFID tags (


When RFID tags are affixed to all of the items in a library’s collection, inventory can be conducted with greatly increased efficiency and accuracy.  All library staff need to do is pass a portable, hand-held wand alongside the books on a shelf.  The wand, which is a reader, picks up the signals from each tag and records inventory status.  The individual books need not be moved or even touched.  This results in both faster and more accurate inventory processes–for example, the California State University, Long beach library is able to inventory 5,000 books per hour using RFID tags, and the Vatican Library in Rome estimates that it can inventory 120,000 tagged items in only half a day as opposed to the month it took to do so before they instituted an RFID system (


RFID tags can also be equipped with special theft-detection bits.  When items are checked out properly, the bits are deactivated, so the items can pass freely through readers.  When items without deactivated bits pass through readers, the system may be programmed to sound an alarm, preventing item loss.

RFID vs Barcodes

But, wait–don’t barcodes do essentially the same thing already?  Yes and no.  Libraries have been using simple barcoding systems for years to nearly the same effect as RFID tags, with a couple of caveats.  First of all, yes, barcodes do allow library management systems to identify items, and they are used for check-in/check-out procedures.  However, there are a few key differences:

  • Barcodes can generally be read by multiple scanners, while RFID tags may only be read by specific readers
  • Barcodes must be physically scanned, one by one, whereas RFID tags allow multiple items to be read simultaneously without a physical scanning process
  • Barcodes are uni-directional–the data may be read, but it cannot be written.  RFID reads from and can write to the tag.

These differences highlight key strengths and weakness of each format; indeed, many libraries use barcodes and RFID tags in conjunction to harness the benefits of both technologies.

The Lowdown

What new knowledge, skills or understanding have you gained?  (Description)

This week, I learned about RFID (radio frequency identification) tags.  RFID tags are tiny adhesive patches consisting of chips and antennae that communicate with RFID readers.  In libraries, RFID tags are used for checkouts, inventory management, and security purposes.

How can you use what you have learned?  (Application)

RFID technology has been in use in libraries throughout the past decade, so it’s good to finally know what that really means.  Understanding how RFID works helps me conceptualize how the inventory management and control processes function.  Knowing how RFID tags can make taking inventory a much faster and more accurate process, for example, would make me feel much more positive about doing inventory in a library that uses RFID.

How does it relate to library work?  (Reflection)

RFID relates directly to library work as many libraries use RFID technologies.

What resources (activities) have helped you to understand and/or have been interesting to use?  (Activities/Resources)

Edwards, S., Fortune, M.  (2008).  A guide to RFID in libraries.  Retrieved from  (2011).  Radio frequency identification (RFID).  Retrieved from

Pandey, P. & Mahajan, K.D.  (n.d.).  Application of RFID technology in libraries and role of librarian.  Retrieved from

Roberti, M.  (2005).  The history of RFID technology.  RFID Journal.  Retrieved from

Sahid, S.  (2005).  Use of RFID technology in libraries: A new approach to circulation, tracking, inventorying, and security of library materials.  Library Philosophy and Practice 8(1).  Retrieved from


Beacons Lead Patrons to Library Services

Imagine that you’re strolling through your local library, returns in tote, wondering if you’ve remembered everything.  You neatly slide the items into the return slot, enjoying the softly muted and strangely satisfying thunk as each material joins dozens of others in the bin, waiting to be checked in, sorted, and shelved for another happy patron.  You wander into your favorite section of the library to choose something new, idly wondering if there are any upcoming library events.  Before the thought is complete, a soft buzz from your phone alerts you to a list of upcoming events that may be of interest.

Noting those that sound interesting, you continue making your selections.  As you approach the checkout machines, another vibration causes you to look at your screen.  A list of titles appears–your previous checkouts–and a quick glance confirms that yes, you indeed did forget at least one item.  You quickly set a reminder to return or renew the item tomorrow.

On your way out the front doors, you pass the genealogy section.  While not a section that you browse frequently, you decide that it might be interesting to sit in on an introductory workshop or two.  You pause at the genealogy section, opting in to receive event notifications.  Within a few seconds, a list of upcoming events is sent to your phone.  Everything that you need has been sent instantly and silently to your device, based upon the locations that you visited because you chose to opt-in to the service.

We live in the weird future–the weird, wonderfully weird future, where technology is capable of doing practically everything–and the technology I described may soon be available in a library near you.  Several libraries in the United States have begun experimenting with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons and coordinating apps to reach out to patrons with highly targeted, location specific information.

What are Beacons?

According to the ACRL, beacons are hardware “that can notify Bluetooth devices of their presence and transmit information” (2016, para. 1).  Beacons are low-energy devices which transmit small packages of data constantly.  They do not require an internet connection to function.  Beacons can be strategically placed to create a network; mobile users can receive information from the network when they are within proximity of the beacon.  When paired with an app, beacons can trigger events on a mobile device, such as  a pop-up notification of events.  Two popular beacon/app companies in the library industry are Bluubeam and Capira Technologies.

How are Libraries Using Beacons?

Libraries are using beacons in a variety of innovative ways to connect patrons with valuable information.  Beacons can be used for:

  • Circulation notices
  • Event notices
  • Informational notices
  • Shelving notices
  • Patron assistance
  • Tracking
  • …and more!

Why Beacons?

Let’s face it:  people today are plugged in nearly all the time.  It’s hard to go somewhere and not see people staring at their phones.  Libraries are facing this reality, too.  According to RFID Journal, “Capturing the attention of a distractible public is a growing challenge for libraries that have historically been known as a quiet institute rich with books and media, but not much beyond that” (2014, para. 2).  Beacons engage patrons on their terms and help patrons see libraries as vibrant cultural institutions that are in touch with the services that the public wants and needs.

Concerns about Beacons

The biggest potential drawback of beacons is patron privacy.  Although beacons only transmit information and do not collect data, they can trigger data-collecting applications.  The presence of beacons in a physical space can also enable tracking because an application may record a beacon track and report it to a network service.

Because beacons may present security risks, it is important for libraries to make sure that patrons understand what information is being collected when patrons use beacons.  it’s also important to allow patrons to opt-out.  Indeed, most beacons are designed to be opt-in services, so patrons will not receive notifications unless they specifically opt-in to the service.

The Lowdown

What new knowledge, skills or understanding have you gained?  (Description)

This week, I learned about Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons.  Beacons may be paired with apps to allow patrons that allow patrons to opt-in to receive notices from the circulation, event notifications, etc. tied to specific locations within the library.  Beacons capitalize upon technology that patrons are tied to (smart phones and tablets) to share information and create community with library users.

How can you use what you have learned?  (Application)

Beacons, which are low-energy and low cost, present a great opportunity for patrons to interact with the library on familiar terms.  I think that they are a great potential asset for both academic and public libraries, and implementation should definitely be explored.  If I were currently working in a library setting, I would definitely encourage my fellow staff members to consider using beacons in the library.

How does it relate to library work?  (Reflection)

Beacon technology relates directly to library work as it is a potentially vital means of forming connections with patrons and creating a community of library users built upon common ground.

What resources (activities) have helped you to understand and/or have been interesting to use?  (Activities/Resources)

BluuBeam.  [2016].  BluuBeam for libraries.  Retrieved from

Capiratech.  (2016).  iBeacon library app integration.  Retrieved from

Enis, M.  (2014).  “Beacon” technology deployed by two library app makers.  Library Journal.  Retrieved from

McNulty, E.  (2015).  Libraries get cutting edge tech with ibeacons.  Dataconomy.  Retrieved from

Spina, C.  (2016).  Keeping up with… beacons.  Retrieved from

Swedberg, C.  (2014).  Libraries check out bluetooth beacons.  RFID Journal.  Retrieved from