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Is Your Library Ready for BYOD?

by Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh on June 6, 2013

When asked if your library is doing BYOD, do you get an uncomfortable feeling someone is asking whether you allow alcohol in your library or your ears need to be cleaned out? Never fear BYOD http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BYOD is a new term most commonly heard in the business world – Bring Your Own Device. It could be coming to a library near you. Prepare yourself to admire and learn about the variety of devices your staff own and love and how they feel these devices help them accomplish their work each day.

Businesses are both embracing and worrying about BYOD
Productivity and security are both concerns. But what about libraries? What are the benefits for adopting this model of staff owned devices used for library work? Historically libraries are not known to be places where “gadget is king” like other industries. Now frontline staff are helping patrons download ebooks to their mobile devices and services like Freegal and Zinio mean music and magazines are not far behind. Individual libraries and larger library cooperatives are discussing what technical competencies their staff must have and developing lists of skills.

Gadgets are becoming an integral part of the library’s business model, but many libraries are slow to integrate mobile technology into their library beyond a few ereaders for staff to “play” with or an iPad to use during storytime. BYOD may be a way for libraries to experiment with new technology in their building without committing vast amounts of money to staff training time on devices these people may or may not want to use. Libraries can experiment with and evaluate the various devices their staff own, use, and love to decide what devices may be right for the library to purchase and use. The staff is given the power to choose instead of receiving an administration mandate.

So now you have let your staff bring their personal gadgets to work, what do you do with them?

  • Demonstrate how your patrons can use your library’s mobile app to find materials on the shelf. Staff can use their phone to model how a patron can use his or her phone or other mobile device.
  • Use a note-taking program to generate meeting agendas or meeting minutes to share with department members.
  • Have back-up internet access in case of emergency. Even though the Internet access or electricity in your library NEVER goes down, it is nice to have staff members with 3G or other mobile devices who can access the Internet and continue to help patrons until the building access problems are solved.

And, of course, you will need to help your IT staff and building administration relax. You have policies on what is acceptable for staff and patrons to do. Revisit that policy before you allow BYOD. Make sure everything is all set. If you don’t allow staff to play Minesweeper on their computers at the reference desk, you shouldn’t be allowing staff to play Words with Friends on their tablets at the reference desk either. It’s just that simple.

Try BYOD, and see how much happier and supportive your staff is of library technology.

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