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New CML website sets foundation for "My Library" strategy

Columbus Metropolitan Library
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Innovation Summary

On Feb 29th 2012, the Columbus Metropolitan Library took a giant leap in moving their “My Library” strategy forward by launching a new website that allows customers to create and widgetize their own personalized homepage of their favorite electronic resources, reading genres, local news feeds, and more.

Innovation Leader: Helene Blowers, Director of Digital Strategy & IT, hblowers@columbuslibrary.org

Problem Statement

In 2011, CML began to focus on a new strategy, “My Library,” with the goal of redefining the customer’s library experience in a way that is highly personalized and “works for me.” To deliver on this strategy, CML decided to a dramatically new approach to redesigning the library’s website. Instead of focusing merely improving and revamping online access and information services for customers, the new web “app” (it’s much more than a traditional website) would be the engine that would allow customers to Fine tune (select widgets, set favorites, and drag and drop content and tools on a personalized homepage) their online library experience to meet their own individual needs. To meet this challenge, CML realized the need to create a new CRM (customer relationship management) system that could integrate with the library’s existing ILS. Although the ILS had long served as the core database for customer data related to circulation, it was limited in serving the data needs that the new web environment would need to allow customers to set personalization preferences, store dashboard configuration settings and provide single sign-on access to electronic resources and My Account (reserves, items checkout, etc) information. To add to the challenge, third party tools and content needed to be integrated much more closely with the website experience. In addition to adding a foundation so the new website could handle customer customization, CML wanted to dramatically improve the library’s ability to provide dynamically changing information related to local community events, library programs and hot topics of interest. To do this, the website’s engine would also need to be integrated with a robust analytical feature that would allow the library’s marketing team to monitor feature “stickiness” and set goals around content visits and usage.

Innovation

To meet the challenges of this project, CML utilized standard technologies, and the open source web platform Drupal. The website login is the key to the CRM (customer relationship management) database and is integrated behind the scenes to bridge the customer into the full My Account area of their record. Once the customer is logged into the site, a snapshot feature at the top of page adds visibility of personalized ownership to the site displaying a profile picture and summary of their account such as reserved items, overdues and fine balance. From here the customer can personalize the most forward and important space in the website--the homepage. Widget tiles were created for every electronic resource, events by location and other popular content. The widgets are presented to the website user in a manner that is similar to a web apps store. Customers can add widgets to their homepage and organize them using drag and drop. Piggybacking on a Drupal module created by Worthington Public Library, the new interface also serves to streamline electronic resources authentication and add additional functionality to 3rd party tools. An example of this is the new interface for the events feature (www.columbuslibrary.org/events) which wrapped a carefully designed user interface over a 3rd party product to add a new events filter engine to dramatically improve ease of use and customer experience. CML leveraged APIs and data access tools with other 3rd party tools as well, pulling rich information feeds buried in the catalog forward to improve collection marketing and website personalization and creating dynamic book sliders from Syndetics data. The customer can select from over 20 genres and categories to set preferred views of the sliders and title lists. All of this is the foundational basis of bringing “My Library” to the customer.

Progress

With a leap day launch (2/29/12), CML has taken a giant step towards realizing the My Library strategy. What was a library website is now a customer centric web “app” that allows users to personalize their library experience and optimize CML’s services to meet their needs. The new platform, with a rich set of features and a CRM, sets the foundation for expanded customization and integration with other end-user services, such as PC reservation and catalog kiosks. The customizable dashboard also enhances the relationship between the customer and librarian. Before, library staff often had to assist the customer with locating hard to find electronic references by writing down the website URL. Now, the librarian can ensure the tool is placed into the dashboard of that customer’s homepage, ensuring that they never need to hunt again. By monitoring analytics specific to the widgets customized by customers, CML can gain a better understanding of how customers actually use these resources as the library continually refines services. In the short month post launch, over 1400 web accounts have been created and that number steadily grows. Dashboard analytics and heat maps show visually that customers find the library promoted features of high value and assist marketing in grabbing customer attention about timely events and services that they did not discover before. Usage of the site is way up with twice the numbers of unique visitors who are viewing three times as many pages as before. The “stickiness” factor is high and the customers are actively customizing the site and discovering new ways to personalize their library experience. Direct customer feedback also highlights this. “Love the redesign of columbuslibrary.org. Clean, easy to use and colorful. I really like the streamlining of the profile info. This is a great library and a terrific website! Thanks!”