Library events and calendars

3 minute read

It’s Shakespeare Week this week (he was a kind of blogger from the old days). How do I know this? I can’t say I’ve seen any big advertising for it. There were some Shakespeare questions on University Challenge, but there always are. I saw it through the listing in the Libraries Connected Universal library offers calendar 2022.

Libraries Hacked projects don’t always start with a lot of problem analysis. Prototypes often shortcut analysis to get onto rapid development, hopefully with an ethical and useful purpose. But in this case let’s have a think about a problem first - what are the problems with the marketing of library events?

Events outside of libraries

There are a couple of public library organisations sharing calendar dates for occasions related to libraries. Like with Shakespeare Week, these are things that are managed outside of libraries but that are probably useful to get involved in, like World Book Day, and National Reading Group Day. They could be actual events with a physical location, or they could be key dates/months.

  • Universal library offers 2022. A PDF calendar of dates curated by Libraries Connected. Each event is linked to the Universal Offers that public libraries provide. In total there are about 50 entries.
  • SLIC - School Libraries Key Dates. A calendar of around 60 events and dates curated by the Scottish Libraries Council. These are primarily for school libraries, but crossover with public library events.

Even this relatively low volume of data is in need of digital transformation. How can someone interested in this information currently use it?

  • Print it out and have it on a desk/wall. Hardly environmentally friendly, or in keeping with remote and flexible working arrangements.
  • Open up the file to look at every now and again. Fiddly. And too low-tech. You shouldn’t have to open up a PDF file at regular intervals to be informed of what’s going on.

There are some immediate things that could be done with this information.

  1. Transform into data and store in a database
  2. Allow the data to be maintained by the original owners (e.g. Libraries Connected).
  3. Make it available on the web in HTML format. This information should be viewable in web browsers across multiple devices.
  4. Allow people to integrate it into their own calendars. Some people use a google calendar, some Outlook, some Apple, etc. They should be able to add a selection (or all) of these dates quickly to their own calendar software.
  5. Provide options for alerts and reminders. Are you interested in a particular event? Receive an alert over your preferred channel (email, SMS, mobile push, etc).
  6. Integrate with automated advertising across social media channels.

That’s a rough design for a shared event calendar for national dates. Relatively straightforward and low maintenance. But what about ALL library events?

Events held in libraries

If you’re storing calendar information in a database, why not include local library events? You could then have a comprehensive calendar of events, that can be tailored to an individual’s location.

This starts to tackle more problems with library events.

  • They are not always promoted, because public libraries don’t have the skills or resources for online marketing.
  • If marketed at all, it’s often only to the existing membership or social media base.
  • There aren’t good ways of highlighting events to people from neighbouring library authorities.

These are good reasons for a combined library events calendar. If a user could sign up to receive alerts for events in their area, they could be informed of events from different library services.

What needs to be done to expand to all library events?

  • Allow library services to add and edit their own events
  • Integrate with existing event platforms such as Eventbrite, to include events managed elsewhere
  • Ensure local events are recorded with a location and library so people can filter based upon location.
  • Also list online events. This would mean anyone could ‘attend’ some library events, regardless of their location.

There are some starting points for this. The create.librarydata.uk site allows for login and data maintenance, so could be extended for managing event data. A data schema could be developed to define what makes up a calendar event, for both local library events and national ones.

It’s also not worth reinventing the wheel - there will be plenty of existing data structures for events such Event - on schema.org.

Any thoughts on this? Combined event listings is a missing element of digital library services, and anything that can be done to more widely promote events would be useful.