Library service of the future

The staff at my public library are currently thinking about where adult services is heading in the next five years. I had some fun looking around at library blogs and websites yesterday and pondering this.

One thing we don’t do but my last library did is provide text and chat reference. I found information on the Chelmsford Public Library‘s website about QuestionPoint, which provides chat and text tools as well as “a 24/7 Reference Cooperative to provide live around-the-clock reference service.” Libraries around the world participate in the coop, which seems like a cool idea. I wonder how well it works?

Something else I read about in a few different places is “personal shopper” style book recommendations. I’m not sure how different this is from traditional readers’ advisory, but I guess it’s about marketing it in a new way.  As I understand it personal shoppers in stores meet a client, find out their size and style preferences, and then at future appointments they have pulled together items the person might like to buy, thereby saving the shopper time and energy by streamlining their browsing.

I’ve seen some busy patrons who rush in and grab their books from the hold shelf and rush out again. People who don’t feel they have time to browse might enjoy being able to fill out a form outlining their reading history and preferences and be able to check out a “curated” selection of books a librarian has chosen for them. That certainly sounds like a snazzy service.

Another cool thing I’ve read about is unusual lending collections. Hooksett Public Library patrons can check out a telescope (there is a nonprofit, Telescopes for Libraries, devoted to spreading this practice). Various libraries across the country lend cake pans, tools, toys, art, and state park passes (with hammocks). Libraries in several states lend Bi-Fokal Kits, which are “multi-media, multi-sensory resources” designed to help older people share memories.

But I wonder if I am not thinking far enough outside the box? Imagining innovative items to lend or ways to update or repackage existing services is easy. What new things will libraries do? I’m not sure yet (beyond all the dire predictions that we won’t even need to exist), but I look forward to digging around and learning more. If you have opinions about the direction library services to adults should be heading, please leave a comment.