Adding Contactless Service as part of your re-opening plans?

Check out these tips shared by dozens of libraries


More than 100 conversations with libraries in the past two weeks regarding their re-opening plans have led to some interesting observations. We have spoken with libraries ranging from 1,200 to well over 500,000 patrons, and have found some major differences and some commonalities.

  1. Plans are as distinct and diverse as the libraries and their communities themselves. All are governed by state and local restrictions, and many of these are still unclear, so figuring out a course of action is a challenge.
  2. Curbside or Contactless Pick-up is a part of almost every library’s plan. Since this solution wasn’t in most libraries’ roadmaps, figuring out the logistics can be difficult. More than half of the libraries we have spoken with are looking at curbside/contactless as a long-term solution, realizing the convenience factor and its ability to help with occupancy levels (see point 3).
  3. All libraries are planning a phased re-opening. The next phase after the start of curbside/contactless allows a limited number of patrons at any given time inside the library. Curbside/contactless service helps libraries serve those simply wanting to pick up or drop off items, allowing the limited library space to be used by patrons doing research, using a computer or requiring another service within the confines of the library.


When building a re-opening plan and implementing a new element like curbside/contactless scheduling, libraries need to consider several factors: patron convenience & satisfaction, impact on staff, and a longer-term plan for how the service affects the library once physical re-opening occurs.


Another thing to consider when looking for a fulfillment solution is its customization options and adaptability. It is important to understand the processes you implement in Week One may need some changes as the popularity of your service grows. Being able to quickly implement new processes should be a key component to any solution implemented, so look for self-service portals that allow the library to change hours, policies, and patron instructions with a few keystrokes.


While some options may seem like a good idea because they’re less expensive upfront, libraries should consider the logistics and staff expense of handling multiple phone calls, the inaccuracy and inefficiency potential of taking orders over the phone, and the difficulty of tracking orders and fulfillment through a written log or spreadsheet.


Budget constraints are a valid concern, so look for companies willing to work with your library in terms of creative pricing, deferred/pro-rated invoices and monthly/quarterly billing, if needed. Don’t be afraid to ask for these options, and shy away from companies that aren’t willing to listen.


In addition, some libraries are applying for grants for re-opening expenses through the federally funded CARES Act. More information can be found here, but the deadline to apply is June 12.


Wishing you all the best in your re-opening plans, and we’d appreciate you letting us know your thoughts and questions in the comments.

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