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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2018

4 - Texting in libraries



Of all the mobile-friendly technologies and services that we may consider, text messaging, or SMS, must surely be the first. Even if you believe that your users may not want or be ready for any mobile service that requires a smartphone, you should still be considering text messaging. In a world where the vast majority of people own a mobile phone of some description, our users will be sending and receiving text messages. SMS is the most widely used item of functionality for most mobile phone users, so it seems sensible to take advantage of it.

There is one key danger in using text messaging to deliver library services. The very personal nature of mobile phones can mean that text messages can easily be viewed as intrusive. Any service that you deliver through SMS must therefore meet a real need. Do not use it to promote your services, or to send out regular, indiscriminately targeted messages. Your users will soon have had enough and will object strongly to this abuse of the facility. Instead, deliver services that your patrons will recognize immediately as being to their advantage. It is easy to get carried away, particularly if you have a contract that allows unlimited text messages for a fixed price. My children's school initially got too enthusiastic with its text service, sometimes sending several text messages a day, normally on minor matters, to all parents. This is the fastest way to lose goodwill and to encourage people to opt out of receiving messages.

Alongside this, make it easy for people to opt out of receiving messages from you. Many organizations ask people to opt in to receiving text messages, which may work for you if you are using the technology for teaching or for one-off services. If you wish to use SMS regularly, perhaps for overdue notices, then it is easier and more effective to tell everyone who uses your service that they will automatically receive text messages unless they opt out. Either way, how to opt out, in other words, how to stop receiving text messages from the service, should be easy and transparent.

SMS (Short Message Service)

SMS, widely referred to as text messaging, has been available since the early 1990s and there are few mobile phones that cannot send and receive text messages.