Communicating with Patrons Via Text Messaging

Jan 30, 2024

Introduction

In the shifting landscape of library services, adaptation is key to meeting the changing needs of patrons. As technological advancements continue to reshape our methods of communication, it is essential for libraries to explore innovative ways of reaching their patron-base. An excellent place to reexamine whether your library is communicating effectively is through the delivery of notices.

While many integrated library softwares offer libraries the ability to email their patrons with overdues and related notifications, this method of communication may not be the most effective way to ensure such notices are being seen. One possible alternative growing in popularity is offering your patrons the ability to receive notices via text messages. In this blog, we will examine both options to evaluate their advantages and disadvantages. There are several components to consider:

Length

Text messages are generally shorter than emails.. This makes them a great way to contact patrons about items that are ready for them at the circulation desk, reminder notices, and overdue notices. However, email is a more flexible means of communication that can be longer and include links, images, and attachments. More detailed information can be sent via email.

Speed

Patrons receive text messages faster than emails, on average, with most being delivered in seconds. Mobile devices are more likely to be brought along by patrons as they go about their day, which makes the text messages more likely to be read quickly. Users can receive text messages in places where there is no internet available to them, so they don’t have to wait to find internet access to check and receive text messages. Text messaging is great for time-sensitive communications. Since text messages usually come from a source that the client knows, they are less likely to be flagged as spam or deleted without having been read.

Email delivery times can vary as they must pass through a web server and an email server before reaching the recipient’s inbox. If there are problems or delays at any point in the process, the delivery time will be adversely affected. Emails can be blocked by spam filters or sent to the “junk mail” folder, resulting in the patron receiving an email late or not at all. Many people don’t check their email as often as their text messages and may not have an email app on their phone.

Complexity

Text messages are “short and sweet”, and perfect for concise communications. Messages informing patrons that items are ready for pickup at the circulation desk or reminders that items will be due soon are good candidates for text messaging. You can send links, however, sending attachments is more complex than with email and images can only be shared by sending links.

Email allows for longer, more detailed messages to be created. You can include images and easily attach documents. Newsletters, fundraising campaigns, formal correspondence, and status notices are more effective via email.

Cost

Text messaging can be more expensive and finding a suitable plan can be challenging. Finding a plan that gives you enough capability to send the messages you need without having a lot of unused data takes a lot of planning and evaluation. If you choose an ILS that has a text messaging function integrated into it, such as Surpass Cloud, sending text messages can be simple and affordable.

Emails are generally less expensive to send than large volumes of text messages. This makes them a good choice for sending information to your entire patron base.

Ways of Sending Text Messages

Text messages can be sent manually by phone, using a third-party texting service, or using a service integrated into an ILS. Imagine if you had to manually text all your patrons! If you are considering adding text messages to your library’s toolbox, you will need either a third-party texting service or a service integrated into your ILS.

Some third-party services have limited integration options and may not work with your ILS. A service integrated into an ILS completely automates text messaging, saving staff time by sending notices according to a set schedule. Additionally, a third-party service is one more software package to learn and maintain. If the text messaging service is already integrated into your ILS, all your patrons’ contact information is already available to use, without needing to import or enter it into another program.

 

Give Your Patrons Options

If you’re not sure what option will best suit the needs of your patrons, you can provide the option to choose. Your patrons will know what method of communication will be effective for them and can let you know their preference. Some may choose to cover their bases and ask for both! Being flexible in this regard ensures that your patron’s needs are being met and that your library is connecting with patrons efficiently.

The Importance of Opt-ins

In order to ensure that notices sent via text are both welcome and, in some circumstances, legally compliant, you will want to confirm that your patrons have the option to choose whether they receive text messages from your library. This is done through a process called opt-in, which is widely considered best practice when any institution communicates to patrons via text messaging.

In the US, consumers are protected from unwanted text messages through the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. A similar regulation exists in Canada, known as the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation. If your library is associated with a business, you will need to comply with these regulations. Though public, school, and congregational libraries in most states are not beholden to business standards regarding communication policies, it is still recommended that all institutions follow a few best practices when sending text messages to their patrons:
• Provide written instructions to your patrons on how to opt-in and require opting in prior to text-based communication
• Make sure that your text messages include your library’s name
• Notify your patrons that their service provider may charge for messages
• Make opting out of messages clear and simple

Conclusion

If your library is looking to improve responsiveness to notices, incorporating text messages may be the solution for you. With text messages, you can relay notices with more speed and efficiency, thereby enhancing communication while providing convenience to your patrons. Some ILS, like Surpass Software, offer text notices as part of their services. Contact your ILS vendor to inquire about this option.

About Surpass Software 

 Surpass is the easy-to-use, cloud-based library management system for libraries of all types and sizes. Whether you’re a school, church, museum, business, or any other organization with resources to lend, Surpass is likely a good fit for you. We pride ourselves on being affordable and flexible, with an expert support team ready to help you at a moment’s notice.

 

 Schedule a free demo to see Surpass in action.

 

 

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