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Get Carded : Flexible Library membership

I have previously blogged my views on thinking outside of the box when it comes to digital library cards and providing access to digital library resources. Libraries need to be across other government digital initiatives for identification purposes and link these initiatives to library membership to make it easier for people to join and use publicly funded information and reading resources.

Is it also time that libraries rethink Library membership and start to reduce barriers to access to the physical resources and services a library offers as well? Some libraries are being really innovative in their approach to membership, striking a good balance between policy, good governance and breaking down barriers to join the library.

Often Library membership type is developed around age, location, residency or organisation. How could we disrupt library membership norms and rethink access, while still complying with licences, accreditation requirements and our policies?

One great new initiative I have seen involves actively looking to community partners to find a workable solution acceptable to local Councils. Manchester City Library has partnered with a charity for the homeless Lifeshare. Those homeless who are working with Lifeshare are provided with a letter from the charity that is accepted as Identification and then can sign up to be a library member and access the computer and library resources offered by the Manchester City Libraries. This is a double incentive — promoting the Lifeshare service as worthwhile to homeless people and promoting the library as a resource to support learning, access to further government services ultimately leading to housing and improved personal circumstances.

Another wonderful initiative I have recently read about is to create flexible library membership types. This particular library service noticed that local teens from a nearby high school accessing the library were not able to use the resources as they did not have library cards and as they were always unaccompanied were not able to join without an adult guardian or caregiver to sign the membership form.

Time to think outside the box. This library service created three new types of library membership and associated library cards.

These were the limited library cards, digital library cards, and school library cards. The Limited Library membership card is for teens aged 14 yrs — 17 yrs and allows them to sign up for membership without a parent or guardian to register them. The card limits the teen to 3 items at a time and gives them access to the library’s digital databases, supporting the teens education, learning and reading.

The school library card is designed specifically for educators and allows teachers to borrow for their classroom. The school is the guarantor for the library resources used allowing teachers to access the library resources and not be personally liable for any loss or damage as this responsibility rests with the school.

Academic libraries are ensuring library access with automatic library membership with the student card. This one card approach is putting user needs to the forefront of service design, focusing on ease of access and reducing individual effort to join.

In South Australia, public libraries and the State Library partnered to create a One Library Card approach so that every South Australian is a member of a networked Public Library service across the State. As people move around the State their library card automatically works wherever they are and they have access to a Statewide physical and digital collection supporting reading, learning and curiosity, while providing efficient use of all tax payer funds.

Disruption is the new normal and putting the user at the center of the disruption is a mantra for future focused libraries. How can the library industry advocate with all levels of government for ease of access to our libraries? Governments are developing digital strategies and moving to One Government accounts for citizens, which could include automatic library membership for digital collections easily. Let’s make sure we are joining the conversations, and are a part of the digital strategies. If there is a move to a digital driver’s licence or a digital public transport card we really could benefit by having library membership automatically enabled with these initiatives.

Let me know what membership disruptions are happening in your library service.

Written by

Librarian, interested in libraries, digital disruption, startups, Australian politics

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