Library as Kinkos

I’ll admit. I get a little annoyed when I have to help patrons use the copy machine. Not the occasional patron that needs assistance copying a homework assignment from a reference book. No, the patron who is copying most of their personal photo album and needs all of the pictures increased by 35.7% and double sided, in color on their own paper please. My comment to co-workers after spending time helping such a patron was always: “This is the library, not Kinkos.”

But I had two experiences this week that are leading me in a new direction as far as what the definition of library service might be.

First, I had a patron call the library to ask if we had Comic Life on our computers. I had never heard of it before. It appears to be a graphics program that allows you to make your photos into a comic strip, adding text bubbles and special effects. My guess is that the elementary schools in my area (which are Mac based) may have this program, and that this student had an assignment that she needed to finish. We don’t have this software, and at first I thought it was a strange product for a library to have.

Later, I went upstairs as a patron to use our library’s scanner to scan some pictures. The computer attached to the scanner is about 7 years old and even scanning pictures at 600 resolution took forever. Trying to print them, or even attach them via e-mail was a total nightmare. I talked to the IT guy (who is actually pretty cool and L 2.0) who said that he will be replacing the computer soon based on my suggestion and may be trying to update the printer and the scanner. But as I told him, it doesn’t make sense to offer a service (scanning) if it doesn’t work properly.

So this led me to thinking about what other places are doing about helping patrons create content. Such as the Charlotte Mecklenburg County library’s ImaginOn center that allows teens to create digital content, such as movies. Or the Loyola Information Commons which allows students to check out digital cameras and video cameras. Even Borders is helping people get digital.

Of course, not every library will be able to set up their own digital studio, but making these technologies available to patrons who would not otherwise have access to them does seem to fit within the library mission. As patrons (especially Millennials) become more and more savvy at creating online content, could the library maintain it’s relevancy by assisting in that process? Libraries will never be Kinkos, but we may be able to provide better library service by incorporating some of their ideas.

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