Library Technology and the Friction Problem


The service desk is an important element in the design of a future library. It is a functional element that enhances the space and the service.

The design of a traditional information desk can create friction, limiting the flow into the library. The friction can reduce the effectiveness of the entry and the lobby. According to the Technology’s Friction Problem by David Pogue, “Friction is a hassle. steps. process. And in this increasingly technified world, there is still a suprising amount of red tape.” He goes on to state, “lowering friction doesn’t just mean more transactions. It means more of any behavior you’re trying to encourage.”

Librarians who work hard to make self service a priority understand that processing materials efficiently is important. However, there are other groups that confuse tradition with friction. They want the community to work closely with their staff. They believe the tried and true service desk is the answer.

The Library’s technology can be used to reduce friction and encourage use. The library of the future can have a service desk that is flexible – one that is rolled in and out as required. The configuration can allow additional staff to surge into the space when it is busy, using ipads, pedestal seats or roving and card swipes.

The apple store allows users to purchase online and pick up at the store. Amazon has the 1-click buy button. It is time for libraries to reduce the friction wherever possible. Libraries need to integrate the physical and virtual library to reduce and eliminate friction, improving research services.

An example of an Ipad swipe card reader.

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