Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Public Library Director Michael Sawyer holds a book as he demonstrates how he can pull up the cover and information on the book with his phone once the system is installed in the library that will bring the card catalog into the digital realm. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
The Pine Bluff and Jefferson County Library System is trying to simultaneously catch up on current technology and get an early start on the future, and its board of trustees is helping to chart the course.
The board, in a Tuesday meeting, took several steps in bringing the system more in tune with present capabilities and establishing a base to enable better service to library patrons in the years to come. The biggest test, directors have found, is acquiring — and sometimes enabling — needed enhancements within the strains of a “flat” monetary budget that presently isn’t showing growth.
Directors voted unanimously to approve a five-year contract with TLC (The Library Corporation) of Inwood, W.Va., on implementing a new “SocialFlow” library program here, with the agreement pending endorsement of the board’s attorney. The cost of the program, which will include added services such as an online card catalog system, will be $216,430.
The local library system — which will soon celebrate a century of service to the public — would be the first in the state and among the first nationally to acquire SocialFlow, which is part of a “third-party” agreement with TLS. Tied to Twitter and designed to better market the library system and its products, SocialFlow incorporates social media technology. SocialFlow is the latest advancement in “garnering greater engagement, traffic and exposure, as well as creating a more efficient work flow among staff,” a report on the program’s operation at the New York Public Library says.
PB/JC Library System Director Michael Sawyer said the program should be in place here by early August if TLC can initiate its efforts by April.
“This is a quantum leap for us,” Sawyer said. “People who follow us on Twitter will see more information from the library. We’re at a 1990s level of technology now, but we’re advancing to current levels and onward with this move. SocialFlow is another medium for reaching out to the public with information flow. Our staff is excited about it.”
Sawyer noted that staffers will also be issued Iphones to better assist patrons.
When reviewing the library system’s budget numbers, the board briefly discussed a possible future campaign for a millage rate increase. Meanwhile, to offset some current income losses, the trustees decided to increase some current fees. The cost of printing paper from a library computer was upped from 10 to 15 cents. Interlibrary loan postage charges to patrons were doubled to $3 from $1.50, and the reservation deposit fee on a public meeting room was raised to $20 from 15. Sawyer said the new amounts were figured to allow the library to “break even,” and added that hikes hadn’t been enacted “for a long, long time.”
Still exploring options for the main branch’s future, the board touched on the county’s population trend. Local architect Fred Reed is putting together a proposal on the location options for the main branch — remaining in its current building with assorted improvements, relocating to an existing facility elsewhere, or new construction at an acquired site. Reed is slated to present his findings at the board’s next meeting, slated for Thursday, March 28.
Trustees also discussed current and possible future Internet technology capabilities. Sawyer said a problem in that arena is that not all of the library system’s branches are served by the same telephone companies and they also don’t currently possess similar server capabilities. Sawyer said he’s studying possibilities that might be able to provide integration without substantial added costs.