Throughout the pandemic, my library has been talking about having more of a “Digital First” approach to our whole library. Let’s explore that concept in the next couple of posts.
What is Digital First? Let’s start with a definition, from Wikipedia: “Digital First is a communication theory that publishers should release content into new media channels in preference to old media. The premise behind the theory is that after the advent of the Internet, most established media organizations continued to give priority to traditional media. Over time, those organizations faced a choice to either publish first in digital media or traditional media. A “digital first” decision occurs when a publisher chooses to distribute information online in preference to or at the expense of traditional media like print publishing.”
For example, in the journalism world, here’s how digital first can work (from something I’ve witnessed in Topeka). The local newspaper used to send a reporter to my library’s monthly board meetings (exciting news, I know!). During the board meetings, the reporter would listen and tweet interesting things she heard. Then she would talk to attendees afterwards.
Next, she would write her article, using her tweets as a rough outline of the meeting. That news article would get published on the newspaper’s website. Then, if the news was interesting enough, it would get published in the print edition of the newspaper.
See the progression there? They started with digital – in-the-moment, social media – digital. Then they progressed to a more formal form of digital (i.e., the online news article). The final step – publishing in print – might or might not happen.
Digital First also works in other industries besides publishing. Here’s an example from AirBnB. Their goal, obviously, is to get you to rent a physical space. But to do that, they use a completely digital process. They have an app on your phone, and a website. Most of their advertising is digital. Your account? Digital. So AirBnB has to use digital to get you to their product (a room).
Making your tools digital, and having your company’s process focus on digital (even if the end result is physical), is another way to have a digital first approach.
Can a library have a digital first approach? Definitely.
Think about your library’s content for a sec. Expand your “content” out to more than just print books. For example, my library’s “content” consists of a number of services, programs, and traditional materials, including:
- Materials – books, DVDs, etc.
- Econtent – ebooks, audiobooks, streaming video, databases, etc.
- Events/Classes – virtual and in-person
- All types of Staff-created content:
- Marketing newsletters
- Blog posts and pages
- Presentations in the community
- Our physical space
- Answering questions
For a library, Digital First is simply prioritizing the digital over the physical. We have all done that this last year, and for many of us … it worked out ok.
What’s that look like? Here are some examples:
- Your “building.” Treat your website as a building. If people visit your website … they have entered the library. Make sure they have stuff to do there!
- Content – at the least, give equal time to econtent. At my library, econtent makes up approximately half of our overall collection, so it makes sense to push our econtent into our customer’s hands.
- Classes and events. Continue offering virtual classes and events. A virtual class is much easier to attend – no driving involved.
- Asking a question. They can come in-person, on the phone, in a tweet, in a DM, in web chat, in Facebook Messenger. In an Instagram comment. They are all questions, and should all be answered in a timely manner.
So, just a few examples. With all of them, it comes down to this – give equal time to digital visits, digital content, and digital services.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
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