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Friday, May 4, 2012

Bridging the Physical Virtual Divide

This is an update of a post I have done in the past here.  But since that time (June 2011),  bridging the physical virtual divide has become my new mission.  I have even added it to my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service.  And, I add at least a mention of it in every talk I give.

In fact, today, I will be at Reaching Forward presenting this talk. So here is update to that original post which I prepared for today's audience.

Promoting books in the virtual world is a tricky proposition.  On the one hand, you want to exploit the 2.0 tools of blogs, wikis, and social media to reach more readers, but on the other hand, you do not want to forget about your core brick and mortar customers.

When I co-created the RA department at the BPL in 2000 our goal was to put a spotlight on leisure readers and give them a desk where their needs could be met…and exceeded!  From the start, in our promotion of books to leisure readers, we have made a conscious effort to create a link between our physical and virtual services.

The first step is to think of your virtual work with leisure readers as the other side of the SAME coin you are already using to help the readers who come into your building.  This symbiotic rather than exclusionary relationship is what drives everything we do at the BPL RA desk.  Our goal is to get our patrons to use both services; in fact, we want one to drive them to use the other.  We have built a following in the building and one online, but because we have consciously worked to link the two experiences and make them equally as engaging and interesting, we now have patrons using the physical and virtual services interchangeably.  They have a seamless library experience across every platform.

The key to building this bridge is to look at every thing you do and ask yourself this question-- Am I keeping the focus on the book?

By book, I don't only mean a physical book.  I mean the reading experience, whether in a paper volume, through audio, or in an "e" format. 

Every time you try a new technology, use a new social media, or start a new program in your RA focused work, you need to remember that it all has to circle back around to finding your patrons their next good read.  As a result, at the BPL, we only incorporate virtual services that meet this standard.

One last comment that I need to stress.  The one thing the library has in stock that bookstores do not is the backlist.  We try to focus a large portion of our book promotion on the backlist.  That gem of the library; the thousands of great reads just waiting on the shelf to be matched with just the right reader.  For more on my strong feelings about promoting the backlist, click here.

Here are some of the ways we bridge the physical virtual divide at the Berwyn Public Library.
And the example we are most proud of-- the one which embodies everything we are striving to do as we bridge the physical--virtual divide... 
  • The Browsers Corner: Books People Like at the Berwyn Public Library (BPL at the BPL)
    • Physical Corner (see right) with staff suggestions and reading lists, flyers for book clubs, lists of award winners, and resources.
    • Virtual Corner online with same content.  But you can also, Reading Maps and the notes from our popular Book Lovers Club
    • It is a one stop shop for patrons, both those who walk through our doors and those who access us virtually.
    • And coming soon to the Browsers Corner...Pinterest

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