One of the fields in which proximity technology is spreading, making the most out of its potential, is that of libraries.
Already successfully tested at the Fayetteville Free Library in New York, at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich and at the TU Library in Delft, the beacon technology can become a common tool and an important resource also at leading Italian libraries.
Major libraries are often situated in grand, imposing buildings well reflecting their role of knowledge and learning centres. Inside, various areas dedicated to study and a broad range of services can be found: reading rooms, exhibition halls, information helpdesks and the borrowing & return counter. Orientating in similar mazes made up of rooms, aisles and staircases is not always easy for new members and tourists.
Thanks to radiofrequency technologies any smartphone can calculate its position in an enclosed space via sensors measuring the power of surrounding signals. These signals can be emitted by beacons, small transmitters that can be disseminated inside the library. In this way it will become possible for users to know their position inside the building at any moment and “navigate indoors” thanks to indications presented directly on their mobile device. Visitors will be able to find their way and reach the destination of their choice through the straightest and quickest route, obtaining additional information as soon as they are near any display or place of interest.
Anyone entering the library will be able to reduce the time length of their research and facilitate the performance of ordinary operations like renewals and returns as well as follow personalised information exciting their curiosity and receive guidance in the choice of their books.
By placing beacons in a library it would be possible to set up “research spots” linked to specific sectors and subjects where, for example to activate the online research engine of the library itself or check the availability of the volume sought.
Thanks to this system it becomes possible to notify visitors of specific contents, further details on authors and books, related resources and suggested titles, useful information and trivia which can be easily stored by the users on their devices.
Along with information on its book heritage, thanks to the beacon system a library can easily communicate to the right audience its usual activities or occasional events: for example it becomes possible to notify events for children once a parent enters a wing of the library dedicated to children or send information on computer courses when a visitor is in the internet area, with specific textbooks on the subject, allowing also to synchronise these activities with one’s own diary or with platforms like Google Calendar or iCal.
Undoubtedly similar experiences require accurate work on contents and on the management of each message emitted by a beacon: the users want a dynamic smart language providing information, explanations, indications, and anecdotes, but without being pedantic or boring.
Furthermore, one of the aims of this system is to attract students (potentially the main beneficiaries of this system) to the library, a place to be enjoyed, by telling them its history and suggesting interactive digital activities capable of raising their interest and involvement. In this way students can visit the library following interactive maps, obtain practical information to manage their studies, measure their learning level through questions and quizzes, share their experience on their own social media profile through a dedicated application, reserve spaces and seats to carry out projects or find texts required for their study.
Among the advantages for the library, the system makes it possible to trace a map of the members, detecting choices and interests, habits and preferred areas. Through an analysis of feedback data retrieved by the application it becomes possible to target people with an accurate choice of messages, find any shortcomings of the facility and improve the services offered.
Simple, practical, convenient.