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Friday, February 14, 2014

Checking Out Experiences

There's a new article on the @YourLibrary website that you simply have to read: "Community Engagement: Kentucky Community Checks Out Experiences at the Library."

It's about the Boyd County Public Library in Ashland, Kentucky, which has a project that I think is fantastic. It's called "Checkout Your Community," and it allows patrons to use their library cards to check out an amazing variety of things, such as fishing poles and museum passes. Numerous libraries have been doing that for a while, but Boyd County has taken it a big step further. 

In addition to offering things like sports equipment and binoculars, the staff is partnering with local organizations to let its patrons check out "experiences." Here are some examples of what they can do:
  • At a hardware store, patrons can get a consultation with an expert about a do-it-yourself project and discounts on materials they purchase. 
  • Check out a guitar and music lessons from a local music store. 
  • Get a free tour of the Fire and Police Departments.
  • Play a free match at a local tennis center. 
This project has a huge "Wow Factor," and feedback from both users and partners has been "overwhelmingly positive." The Checkout Your Community program definitely puts the library in a new light, builds community ties, saves people money, and fulfills the library's mission “to provide quality resources and access to information for all users.”
“Our patrons are blown away when they hear about these opportunities, and they bring back positive stories when they return the items,” Nunley said. “I don’t think we could stop this now that it is unleashed!”
There's a larger lesson in all of this that I want to point out--that's how it got started. Some staff members came back from a Risk and Reward (R-Squared) conference with fresh ideas, but they didn't stop there. They asked a vital question: "What more can we do?" 

Asking such questions, thinking innovatively, and having the freedom to try new things is what sets some libraries apart from others. If you want your library to provide more meaningful or more exciting services that people will crave and use, that's what you need to do.

Go read this whole article now, and ask yourself: Why couldn't we do this? What's stopping us? What more can we do to add value to our community?

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