A Response to “Texting”

From the comments on:

“Libraries that don’t offer texting are basically invisible to me.”

comes this response from TTW reader Graeme Williams:

I’m a library user, not a librarian.  We have a beautiful library in our town, but usage is dropping slowly year by year.  I think the general point is exactly correct, although I’d call the problem one of friction rather than invisibility.  It is, after all, possible for a sufficiently determined person to locate the library, obtain a library card, and borrow a book, provided they have proof of residence, so the library isn’t literally invisible.

My children use their cell phones far more than I do.  My son sends and receives more than a thousand text messages a month.  If you have a text interface, you’re clearly going to be more accessible to him, whether you’re lending books or selling pizza.  Since he always has his cell phone on him, any other method of interaction is going to be less convenient for him — it’s going to involve more friction.

I’m like a lot of people in that I’ve gradually moved a lot of activity on to the web, whether it’s renewing my car registration, checking my bank balance, buying a book, or borrowing one.  The library web site is just about the least convenient interface I use regularly.  Just as one example, if I do a search and locate a book I want, I need to log in to request it, but when I do that I lose my search.  The terminology is just a little bit specialized, and it’s not even consistent:  after I log in to “my account” I can see “my patron record”.  Can you imagine Amazon or LL Bean having a “patron record”?  I’m not that interested in bashing the library for having a poor web site, but you can see that any confusion in the user interface is going to mean more friction, and that will ultimately translate into fewer borrowers.

I think this perfectly illustrates the idea of creating or enhancing library services to meet users in their worlds. I am so sorry to have missed Jenny Levine’s keynote at CIL about stressing the human aspects of our services but from all of the wonderful blogging I’ve read, I think this example fits well too.