I’ve been skimming blogs and the web for ideas on digital tools that may enhance service. What I’m seeing are a lot of ways libraries are using technology for promotion or marketing, but not so much service. To me service is more about doing something for someone; the provision of a need, so perhaps I’m just not thinking of it in a broad enough sense (according to Canadian Oxford Dictionary there are about 17 definitions of the word). Is just providing a tool considered a service? I’m not sure about that either.
Chat and IM reference are definitely services that are provided through the use of technology. That is quite clear to me and I think it is a very valuable service. I can see other types of virtual reference, for example via Second Life, as a service but not one that’s going to take off any time soon at my particular university.
I also consider RSS feeds for new acquisitions to be a service; how else would students or faculty know about new items? My library does keep a table where a few new items are left for a couple weeks, and one of our window displays is devoted to jackets from new books, but I suspect they don’t really get looked at and having a feed is a better method of letting patrons know what is coming in, especially if they aren’t (coming in, that is). So even though it’s promoting materials, it still feels more service-oriented to me.
From what I can see, most digital tools or products do not enhance service to patrons; they are used as promotional tools by the libraries (which is very important too). Many library blogs are more of a notification alert of changing hours or special events listings than service oriented. Same with a lot of other popular sites among librarians: Flickr, Youtube, Facebook. All can be great ways to reach audiences and promote the library, but I don’t necessarily see them used as a service. Sure we can post video tutorials on Youtube, but I’m not convinced that’s a service and not just an additional resource.
I know there are tools that librarians can use to improve service; I’m just trying to make that differentiation between service and promotion. Is providing a LibX plugin a service? What about texting from the catalogue? Creating a photographic special collection online? Since many of these tools increase access to the library, I’d argue that they probably would work to enhance service as well. Does anyone have some great examples of digtial tools or products that better library service?