New Approach to Library Card Renewals Improves Process for Customers and Library System

By: Susan Post

Pioneer Library System in Norman, OK is making it easy for its customers to maintain a relationship with the library. When it comes time for customers to renew their cards, the Library turns to SaaS platform Savannah to automate the process, presenting customers with a number of options so they can choose what is most convenient for them.  

Strategy & Innovation Officer Adri Edwards-Johnson says that for the last few years, the Library had been relying on its ILS system for renewals. While the staff could see that cards were about to expire, many customers didn’t realize they needed to renew until it was too late and they couldn't access materials. PLS started using their system to send out notifications to customers that their cards would expire in 30 days, but the plain text emails were impersonal, unbranded and potentially revealed too much customer information.

The method proved to us that there was a need for the service but it needed to be refined,
— Edwards-Johnson

PLS approached OrangeBoy with its concerns, and responding to its client's needs, OrangeBoy worked with the Library to develop a process for customer card renewals that solved the issues with ILS notifications.

By using Savannah, PLS could:

  • Create branded email messages that looked more professional and legitimate.
  • Customize messages based on home branch usage.
  • Measure and analyze statistics like open rates and card activity after renewal.
  • Create the initial framework and automate the process.

Savannah’s custom messaging framework addresses several nuances to the process that the the Library’s ILS was unable to handle. Branded elements and links to official library web pages legitimize requests. Enhanced functionality allows PLS to insert the library card number into messages to address overlaps like a parent using their email address for a child’s card. Query functions in Savannah allow PLS to filter its customers by branch and send targeted, customized messages based on location.

When creating the message itself, Johnson considered what would grab her attention. What would she open versus toss? PLS renewal messages invite customers to renew their borrowing privileges and provide five avenues to do so.

“The choices are visit the library - they can visit it in-person or via telephone,” Johnson says. “They can respond to the email that actually sent this message to renew their privileges. They can connect with us via live chat or SMS text...Or if they are a procrastinator and like to live dangerously, they can wait until three days before their card expires then log into our library catalog and renew through our catalog interface.”

Different customers have different habits and behaviors, and PLS gives its cardholders the choice to renew through the method that is most convenient to them.

Many customers preferred electronic methods like live chat and SMS text, which also provided a different, important customer insight. Age was not a factor for opting for tech-based renewal methods.

"All of that is to reinforce that it is legitimate, but it’s within their power to keep that relationship with the library active,” Johnson says.

Many PLS customers are choosing to keep their relationship with the library. Since starting the messaging in mid-March, PLS has sent 3,317 messages to customers whose cards will expire in 30 days. The Library tracks open rates through Savannah, and is seeing a 37 percent open rate while most messages typically see about 18-20 percent. About 500 customers, or 15 percent, have taken action and renewed their cards.

Through its propriety customer clusters based on behavior, Savannah is also able to segment and quantify what types of cardholders are renewing. 

Digitarians, cardholders who primarily access eConent, make up the largest number of renewals, followed by Page Turners, customers who stick with teen and adult print materials, and Bedtime Stories, adults who check out children’s materials for their kids.

What was especially insightful for Johnson, though, was the percentages of Inactive and Occasional users who chose to maintain a relationship with the Library.

Statistically, two groups that are at the greatest risk of walking at the door, were instead expressing value in a connection with the library.

PLS worked with OrangeBoy to lay the groundwork for the process, which they are now able to automate through Savannah. Automatic messaging can be scheduled so that every day, a new batch of 30-day renewal reminders is sent without any additional work, making the process not only more convenient for customers, but library staff.