It’s difficult to define just one role that public libraries play in the US, as they are incredibly unique depending on the communities they serve. What is certain is that they are always key players in filling community needs, such as access to healthcare information or immigration services. Wonderful examples include programs like The American Place at Hartford Public Library in Connecticut, which helps immigrants not only prepare for citizenship but also adjust to life in the local community. Or the library nurse program at Pima County Public library in Arizona that brings basic healthcare checks to anyone who needs it.
It’s this diversity that makes public libraries special and demonstrates why the roles they play are so critical. So, while each library is unique, they share a common commitment—to put their community at the center of everything they do.
Increase community engagement while managing your library
If you attended last month’s Public Library Association conference in Philadelphia or read any of our communications, you’ll know that we just announced a new product offering for US public libraries. OCLC Wise is the first community engagement system for US public libraries. It combines customer relationship management, marketing, and analytics together with all the expected ILS functions.
Wise is different—it’s designed around people, not the bibliographic record, and it helps library staff understand how people use the library, what they want, and how they prefer to receive information. It’s also an integrated system, one that takes an inclusive approach to a wide range of functions that librarians tell us currently require four or more systems.
As a member-driven organization, OCLC wants to be not only a driver of innovation but also a partner in helping public libraries do more of what’s important in their communities. Wise makes this a reality.
What librarians have said about Wise
Every time I’ve talked about Wise with public library leaders—beginning with our first advisory group meeting in early 2017—the response has been enthusiastic and supportive. Since Wise is already being used by more than 75% of public libraries in the Netherlands, it has given us the opportunity to share what Wise looks like in use. And we’ve heard things like:
- Wise simplifies personal engagement with tools and data;
- Wise removes subjectivity—instead of an interpretation of customer wants or what customers say they want, the system uses data to determine needs; and
- Wise reduces barriers in how staff members work, how customers get information, and how management can interact with the community.
One of the capabilities that makes Wise so interesting is the way it uses information about what people do in the library—how they use or don’t use the collection—to help evolve collections. This collection management approach combines staff expertise with evidence-based advice about what to keep, buy, move, and weed. Analysis based on customer preferences can then feed all kinds of change and exciting new possibilities.
Integrated data and marketing tools also empower library staff to build stronger customer relationships. With Wise, customers can opt-in to exactly what they’re interested in, and the system makes it easy to provide timely and meaningful communication. Staff can automate campaigns that communicate over time, or they can build unique, one-time emails for specific events. Either way, customers appreciate the personal attention.
Privacy is, of course, an important professional value for library workers. And these days, it’s also top of mind for many library users. I want to be clear that OCLC takes data privacy very seriously. OCLC does not sell users’ personal data. Wise and other OCLC products make use of personal data only within the context of providing the library services that our members and their users have agreed to.
What’s next for Wise
We’re currently focused on tailoring Wise for availability to US public libraries later this year. We’re also going to be working closely with a group of early adopters. If you’d like more information about that or want to keep track of Wise developments, you can sign up for more information.
I’m incredibly excited about the promise of Wise. It isn’t just a system that completes tasks, checks boxes, and gets things done. It can truly be a catalyst that helps libraries create and deliver more transformative experiences for everyone in their communities and positively impact more lives.