A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

News & Opinion

Patrons Can Check Out a Museum Pass with smARTpass App

by on January 26, 2017

Twin Cities residents looking for an activity for date night or a family day out need just two things: a library card and an app called smARTpass. The app is a new venture from the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), a regional library system serving more than 100 public libraries in the Twin Cities area, that gives patrons a chance to snag free or discounted tickets to places like the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Children’s Museum.[i]

MELSA previously offered a program called Museum Adventure Pass, which allowed patrons to check out physical passes to local museums and other institutions.  This program was well-loved by patrons but had downsides, including the fact that patrons had to physically go to a library branch to obtain one of a limited number of passes, which often ran out early in the day, and patrons had no limits on repeat checkouts.[ii]

With the new smARTpass, patrons can obtain tickets and passes straight from an app on their smartphones, making them more widely available to MELSA patrons.  These tickets are still limited and still run out quickly, sometimes within hours, but new policies help spread the cultural wealth among patrons.[iii]  First, patrons can generally only reserve one pair of free admissions to each institution per year, unless the institution permits more, and once reserved the admissions cannot be returned – if they are not used the patron still cannot reserve another set that year.  Second, patrons can have only two active reservations at a time, with reservation slots available up to two months in advance.  With this policy, if a patron reserves a set of tickets to two different institutions for the next month, they cannot reserve a set of tickets for another institution until they’ve used the first of their reserved tickets.[iv]

“It works best if you have a lot of cultural organizations that can contribute, so lots of people can take advantage of it,” said Sally Lederer, communications manager for MELSA. “Luckily for us here we have a lot of great arts partners.”[v]

MELSA has partnered with more than two dozen organizations to provide passes and tickets for this program.[vi]  The tickets are provided by the organizations and are not paid for by MELSA; it is up to each institution to decide how many tickets they will offer, with what restrictions, and for what specific dates.  Partners can also offer discounted tickets, which are usually not limited by the free ticket policies, allowing interested patrons further admission to their favorite institutions.[vii]

“The good thing about [smARTpass] is that it’s really scalable for different sizes of organizations,” said Lederer.  “It can be a small theater company or a large museum that’s open every day; it just depends on what the organization has to offer.”[viii]  Current smARTpass partners include museums, orchestras, smaller music ensembles, theaters, and even a dance studio.[ix]

The smARTpass app was built by Nerdery, a Minnesota-based web developer, and the app and website are maintained by MELSA staff.  The app’s backend allows partners to generate reports to see how many people are using the partner’s offered tickets and which libraries the users come from.[x]

The program is marketed with ads on local news sites,  MELSA’s website,  websites of its member libraries, and in individual branches via bookmarks and posters. Currently, smARTpass has about 16,000 registered users, a small percentage of the library population, and “the ones on there are pretty serious about making reservations,” said Lederer.[xi]


References

[i] “Partners.” MELSA smARTpass. Accessed January 21, 2017 https://smartpass.melsa.org/partners/

[ii] Sally Lederer, Communications Manager at MELSA, in a phone interview with the author, January 5, 2017

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] “How it Works.” MELSA smARTpass. Accessed January 21, 2017 https://smartpass.melsa.org/how-it-works/

[v] Sally Lederer, Communications Manager at MELSA, in a phone interview with the author, January 5, 2017

[vi] “Partners.” MELSA smARTpass. Accessed January 21, 2017 https://smartpass.melsa.org/partners/

[vii] Sally Lederer, Communications Manager at MELSA, in a phone interview with the author, January 5, 2017

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] “Partners.” MELSA smARTpass. Accessed January 21, 2017 https://smartpass.melsa.org/partners/

[x] Sally Lederer, Communications Manager at MELSA, in a phone interview with the author, January 5, 2017

[xi] Ibid.


Tags: , , , ,



Leave a comment

1 comment

  1. Jim Flury says:

    Feb 1, 2017

    I am glad to see the MELSA museum pass program up and running. Metro Detroit, MELSA and suburban Chicago were the three original beneficiaries of the Macy’s sponsored Museum Adventure Pass program. Our successor program, the online, statewide, Michigan Activity Pass (MAP) program http://www.plymouthrockets.com/map2016/ has been in existence since 2012 with 638 library buildings, and 423 cultural partners!

Name required

Website