New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

Brooklyn Public Library Launches Mobile App, New Tech Resources for Patron

By: David Woloch, Executive Vice President of External Affairs

Recently, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) has undertaken a number of new technology initiatives to improve service for our patrons. This spring, BPL released its first mobile application for on-the-go access to the library’s collection. The free “My BPL” app, available for both iPhone® and Android™ devices, allows users to complete a variety of tasks on their cell phones, from placing holds and renewing materials to saving to-read lists and searching the catalog. It also offers more innovative features, such as full GPS/mapping functions to help patrons locate nearby libraries and the option to scan ISBNs to search the library’s collection. App users can also discover new books to borrow by browsing recent arrivals, “just ordered” books and The New York Times Best Sellers lists. Additionally, patrons can see how many of their holds are ready for pickup, check their fine balances and view overdue books.  

The app has been well received since its launch, with nearly 10,000 patrons downloading it and logging a cumulative total of more than 96,000 sessions. We’re now in the midst of beginning a campaign to attract more users.

My BPL is just one of a series of new resources BPL has recently piloted to drive use of the Library. In December, BPL released a new online catalog featuring enhanced searching, simpler browsing and faster, more refined results. One of the most exciting aspects of this new platform is that it encourages online interaction among our patrons—users are able to read and write book reviews, create booklists and tags, send direct messages and make shelves to store wish lists. Looking ahead, we will finish installing self-check machines across our system, which will enable our employees to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time assisting patrons.

To help increase digital literacy, BPL also opened the Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons at Central Library in January. It has quickly become one of the busiest areas of the building and a hub for creativity, learning and collaboration. The space features a 36-seat training lab, seating and outlets for 70 laptop users, 25 public desktop computers, 6 private meeting rooms, and a recording studio equipped with a DSLR camera, microphones and an iMac editing station. Through a partnership with the nonprofit group BRIC, we have been able to offer free courses on subjects ranging from digital storytelling to short-form video techniques. The space’s meeting rooms have been in high demand since we opened; we receive an average of 170 online meeting room reservation requests every week. Customers book the rooms for study groups, community meetings and numerous other uses.

These efforts are just some of the initiatives outlined in our first ever Strategic Plan, which we released last January and will continue to propel our institution forward.