Library Leadership

33. A Key to Relevancy: Creating Experiences in Libraries with Ranny Lacanienta

Have you ever wondered how you can handle the many disruptors in libraries that threaten our relevancy?

Today’s guest Ranny Lacanienta, Director of Product Management with SirsiDynix, walks us through the many changes that have taken place in libraries over the past decades.

He shares the importance of creating experiences in libraries as a way to engage patrons for lasting impact. Memorable experiences create ownership, encourage pride, and develop a sense of community. As people meet, convene, and share ideas in spaces that positively engage their senses—librarians develop a ‘product’ that will never become obsolete.

Transcript

This podcast is brought to you by the School of Library and Information Management from Emporia State University, where library leaders are created, with program sites in Las Vegas, Nevada; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; and Emporia and Overland Park, Kansas; and by the Park City Library, making film and podcasting possible with green screen and sound recording resources.

Adriane:

This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. You’re listening to Library Leadership Podcast, where we talk about libraries, and leadership, and speak with guests who share their ideas, innovations, and strategic insights into the profession. 

Have you ever wondered how you can handle the many disruptors to libraries that threaten our relevancy? Today’s guest Ranny Lacanienta, Director of Product Management with SirsiDynix, walks us through the many changes that have taken place in libraries over the past decades. He shares the importance of creating experiences in libraries as a way to engage patrons for lasting impact. Memorable experiences create ownership, encourage pride, and develop a sense of community. As people meet, convene, and share ideas in spaces that positively engage their senses, librarians develop a product that will never become obsolete. Enjoy today’s show.

Welcome to the show, Ranny. I’m so excited to have you here today. Ranny and I go back in the library profession together, over three decades here in the state of Utah.

Ranny Lacanienta:

That’s right.

Adriane:

…where we’ve worked on the Utah Library Association together. Ranny is now the Director of Product Management with SirsiDynix. So Ranny, you continue to serve libraries in a way that is continuously developing to help us create dynamic user experiences, which is what we’re going to talk about today—experiences. 

Question #1: Recently I got to hear you give a presentation on something your company calls, Blue, B – L- U- E, Best Library User Experience. Can you tell us what this is, and why it’s important, maybe give us some examples? I’d really like to get an idea of what this is all about.  01:58 

Ranny Lacanienta:

So, as you mentioned, BLUE is our mantra at SirsiDynix. It stands for Best Library User Experience. This has various facets, as you would imagine, and includes support—customer support, or customer experience, library relation managers, or what we call LRM’s that are assigned to each and every customer that we have. We have employee experiences all the way to development of software and navigating a web page, for example, where we looked at intuitive and efficient ways through processes, and tasks involved in a library, whether you’re a librarian, or a member of the library staff, or a library patron.

Adriane:

That’s fantastic. 

Ranny Lacanienta:

So really, each library around the world is unique. So, BLUE means different things to different libraries. One might focus on the atmosphere, and how the library looks and feels, with comfortable furnitures, and great looking furnitures. Others might believe in having an excellent collection in print and electronic. 

Yet others might tweak their policies and library rules to offer the best experiences for their patrons. Major disruptions have occurred in the library business, or industry, since 1995 with the arrival of Amazon, where you can find books, and order the books, and it’s right at your door a couple days later to get your personal copy. Today, one can get those books, or anything at all, ranging from grandmother’s basement items, i.e., trinkets, to high-end tech gadgets. 

In 1997 there came about the streaming movies. Then the big one in 1998, where the powerful search engine called Google, can find anything and everything on the web. So, that’s really the time where librarians got a little bit jittery, basically asking themselves—their roles, and their relevance in the whole scheme of things as far as the information world is concerned. Then Wikipedia came out in 2001. People think, Are these authoritative sources? And coming from an academic library…

Adriane:

Right.

Ranny Lacanienta:

…faculty and librarians both would ask themselves, What citations being used in this student’s papers are going to be authoritative? That was Wikipedia back then, and it’s of course, crowdsourcing and so they didn’t think that was authoritative. Right now, as you know, the format for a web citation has been formed. Wikipedia is just one of those things that pop-up at the very top of every search hit list.

Adriane:

Right. And what I like about this, Ranny, is that you have a computer science background in addition to a librarian background. I mean, degrees in both, which is a really compelling place to be. Because you’ve seen so much change…

Ranny Lacanienta:

Right.

Adriane:

…over time. And, you call them disruptions. In business these are disruptions. In libraries we talk about relevancy, like when Google happened, or Wikipedia, we’re like, Are we still going to be anything? Are we going to count?

Ranny Lacanienta:

Exactly.

Adriane:

Question #2: So, you have a really unique position from where you’ve been sitting to watch this unfold. 05:36

Ranny Lacanienta:

Right, right. And you know, it continued on, with iTunes in 2003 with the streaming audios. You know, right after 9/11 with the budget cuts, and we still feel the pinch right now for budget cuts in libraries in 2002 on.

Then there’s the movement from P to E, print to electronic in the early 2000’s. We all know about the Fab 5, teaming up with Google to digitize print books. I’m talking about University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and NYPL. I think a lot of librarians, including yourself, would agree with me that these are major disruptions in our profession in space.

So with these disruptions, libraries of any type started to question the role and relevancy like we alluded to, right, in their community? We had to think of something quick, or be facing obsolesce, right?

So, we fought back. We ramped up DVD’s and our CD collection. We ramped up our electronic resources and access. We started lending, offering all sorts of low-fidelity and analog objects. We have makerspaces. We lent out fishing poles, GoPro’s, sewing machines, cake pans, seeds, American Girl Dolls, and similar things in the same fashion we lent out our books. 

But, what if we added some sort of a memorable moment to accompany the lending of these objects? Say, for a little boy that borrowed a fishing pole, as an example, if he caught like, oh, let’s say three fish. Then the library could offer to pay their next month’s fishing license, or the next year’s fishing license for that little boy, right?

Or, for an avid gardener that borrows seeds from the library, if the library offers them. I don’t know if you do it here at Park City. Have them return the harvest of the borrowed seeds, and maybe plus a couple of other plant seeds in the garden for the library to catalogue, as additions to their collections. Then we’ll find ways to use those card catalogues again to put those seeds in little envelopes, and stuff like that.

So, these types of simple events and memorable experiences encourage pride, and sense of community for everyone that uses the library. And remember what I mentioned earlier, the memory itself becomes the product. It’s not about the fishing pole, or the seed that the patrons borrowed. But, it’s about the memory and the pride that was nurtured as a result of that checkout item.

Adriane:

Sure. So, you talked about the reimagining when libraries faced these disruptions. We began to reimagine ourselves with seeds, with fishing poles, with equipment to check out. And that was a really fun place to be. But, what you’re talking about is exciting because it takes it a step further.

Ranny Lacanienta:

Right.

Adriane:

Question #3: It’s just not this reimagining of what we have here, but how people experience that in their lives, is that right? 08:40

Ranny Lacanienta:

That’s exactly what it is. And again, products and services that the libraries offer just become background props, really.

Adriane:

Okay.

Ranny Lacanienta:

The center stage becomes the experience. That’s what we need to focus on.

Adriane:

So, people walked through the door—and some of this includes spaces, right?

Ranny Lacanienta:

Right.

Adriane:

Question #4: In your presentation you talked about not only the objects we have in the library, but the space itself becomes integral to the experience. Can you tell me a little bit about that? 09:11 

Ranny Lacanienta:

I recently read a book called 3rd4All, by Aat Vos, where he designs library spaces where people can actually convene, congregate, and meet to exchange ideas, stories, and experiences that people can benefit from. One thing he mentions about experiences is to make these 3rd places. 

Let me backup for a second. So 3rd places, as you can imagine—1st places are public spaces. 1st places are really our homes, 2nd places are the places that we work in, and then 3rd places are public spaces that people congregate in. 

One thing that he mentions, the author of 3rd4All, mentions about experiences is to make these 3rd places, i.e., the libraries, better than home. Make it better than retail, even better than Starbucks. Make it honest, informal, inspiring, different, and personal. Is what he says.

Adriane:

Question #5: Yeah, that sounds really nice. 10:26

Ranny Lacanienta:

And one other thing I’ve learned from Att Vos is that, you know, he is so community focused that he taught me this concept. That people are sources of information, really. When we congregate and meet in these third places, ideas are exchanged, stories are told, and we learn from each other as a result of those informal interactions.

Adriane:

Question #6: That’s marvelous. And, I know you were instrumental in developing the library that exists now in your hometown, here in Utah, Saratoga Springs. 10:51

Ranny Lacanienta:

That’s right.

Adriane:

Question #7: And they’re about to create a new library. So, we want people to come together in our communities. People are resources and sharing of ideas is so valuable, so bringing those out in those. I’m excited that you’re going to be involved in this next step of that beautiful library. 11:00

Ranny Lacanienta:

Right, because the past thirty years I think of resources in the libraries as just our collection…

Adriane:

Yeah, yeah…

Ranny Lacanienta:

…our print collection, our e-resources, and things like that, and everything we offer there. But, I haven’t really thought of people congregating, and exchanging ideas, face-to-face, as a resource for individuals like you and I. 

Adriane:

Question #8: Right, it’s a marvelous thing. So, one of the stories that you included in the presentation that I saw was about an MRI experience? And, I think it’s been used in this realm a little bit, but it really illustrates what this could look like. Can you tell us about that?  11:41 

Ranny Lacanienta:

Sure, absolutely. Let me back up one moment in which I had my MRI experience. Been to a lot of doctors all my life, been to a lot of hospitals. So, when a doctor actually orders an MRI, the first time—I remember the first time I was there. I was so nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, you know, they lay you up on this little table, and then they put you in, and [laughter] I’m claustrophobic to begin with anyway…

Adriane:

Yeah…

Ranny Lacanienta:

And so, it’s—so, I just basically closed my eyes and did not try to see anything in there. As they were wheeling me in, I had a little itch. And, I jerked a little bit. And that little jerk actually hit the top of the MRI tunnel. And I said, Oh, my gosh, I am in a very small space here. So, that whole forty-five minutes I was just playing with my mind, and trying to ease my mind as to, you know, to ease it off of the experience that I was having. 

So, with this MRI experience that happened at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital, it’s different between adults and children. Adults, you kind of know what to expect. With kids, they don’t know what’s going on. So, at the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital they employed the concept of design thinking where they empathize with the end user. This end user being the child going through an MRI process.

So in the general sense, empathy is our ability to see the world through the people’s eyes. To see what they see, feel what they feel, and experience things as they do, right?

So to make it experiential, and immersive, and human-centered to the child going through an MRI experience, the medical staff dressed in costumes of pirates, ship captains, shipmates, and created backgrounds of shipwrecks, sand castles, treasure chests, and bubbling water – with an image of a ship’s wheel as the main entrance into the tunnel of the MRI. So, what kid wouldn’t want to participate in that sort of themed environment? It alleviates their anxieties, transforms the kid’s mind from the unknown, now to the familiar. 

Adriane:

I’m picturing that in my mind’s eye of this child who’s nervous, but now they’re having kind of an adventure…

Ranny Lacanienta:

…exactly.

Adriane:

…instead of a medical procedure, which is so great. And, that empathy—trying to picture what the end user is experiencing as they go through this process. And, a library can be the same way, right?

Ranny Lacanienta:

Oh, absolutely.

Adriane:

We talk about…

Ranny Lacanienta:

Absolutely.

Adriane:

Question #9: Oh, it’s Dewey Decimals, numbers, right? So, what is that experience like in libraries? And, how does that come down to us creating a customized experience, and authenticity for our users? 14:45 

Ranny Lacanienta:

I mentioned one facet of design thinking and that is the empathy. That’s where you need to start. You need to put yourself in the shoes of the end user. And for this Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital, they basically created something that is familiar to the child. They know everything about pirates, the swords, the hats, and everything, right? 

From the Experience Economy book, however, one would design experiences with four E’s in mind. The E’s that I’m talking about are entertainment, education—which we know about as librarians, esthetics, and escapist.

In the entertainment world, entertainment comes in different forms, and not just movies or plays. They can be games, or gamification, reading marathons, for example, stories, documentaries, and things like that. 

As far as education is concerned, our core value in libraries is really kindling for knowledge. I got that phrase from a professor of mine at Syracuse. As an escapist design, let’s divert their minds to purely imaginative activities, and make them forget about their daily, you know, reality and routine.

And then as far as esthetics are concerned, you try to engage all five senses. The sight—you do appealing to the eyes, such as lighting, color, symmetry, or asymmetry, if that’s what you want. Hearing. If you have in your children’s section, if you have a big rainforest type of tree in the middle of that section, then you play bird sounds, and things like that. For the feel you have this texture of your building. And, for the scent—for the scent, for example, for the nose. 

Just a diversion a little bit—Soarin’ Over California. I don’t know if you’ve been there at Disneyland. There’s this ride called Soarin’ Over California. You’re actually sitting on this chair that’s lifted up and it moves around. Right in front of you is this big screen, and you’re really going over mountains and the ocean. As they go through a grove of oranges, then you feel and smell this orange scent, just a little whiff of it. That makes its appearance even more, way, way better than just looking at it with your eyes, and feeling it that way.

Adriane:

Question #10: Yeah, I’m getting that. I’m getting that orange smell right now just talking with you. 17:57

Ranny Lacanienta:

[laughter] So then, if you have a chance of offering something for the palate, then there’s something there for the taste as well. So again, the four E’s. Entertainment, education, escapist, and esthetics is what Joe, and Jim talked about in their books.

Adriane:

I like those. And, in Park City we’re an historic mining town and we have what we call for the kids, The Miner’s Mountain. And, it has lights in it. It has hands-on where they can do magnets inside little soft…

Ranny Lacanienta:

Fantastic…

Adriane:

Question #11: …you know, feel the soft reading pillows where they can read. So, that’s one example of how it could be adapted for libraries. So, how do we get our heads around this? I mean, it’s a consumer’s sensibility. And libraries, we don’t think of ourselves in that way, sometimes, but how can we adapt this to create an environment like that in our libraries? 18:42 

Ranny Lacanienta:

So, think of your precious life memory. I want you to think back as a child, or as an adolescent, or teenager, or college life, single life, married life, parent, grandparent, or even as a librarian at work, or an office, family vacation, or anything special that you hold onto dearly. Then allow me—so, as soon as you think of that precious memory, allow me to take the memory and put it in a jar and I will seal it, right? And store it away on a shelf in my basement.

How much would you pay me to get that precious memory back?

Adriane:

Gosh, it’s priceless. It’s something anybody would give almost anything for. 

Ranny Lacanienta:

If that’s your best memory in life? Yeah, I would pay anything to get that memory back.

Adriane:

Question #12: Definitely. And libraries are so much about memory, cultural memory for communities, literature going back millennia. The things that we have here really are memories. So, I think what you’re kind of getting at is that a library can use that, and realize the preciousness of it. And not only store the memories, but create the memories, right, Ranny? 19:52

Ranny Lacanienta:

Right, no, absolutely. I failed to mention earlier that these companies that sell experiences sell memories, and stuff like that, are the ones that are still thriving. They’re the Amazons, they’re the Apples, they’re the Build-a-Bears, they’re the Geek Squad, you know, all of those. And the ones, there’s Uber, and the ones that are already out of business, we already know who those are, Blockbuster, Radio Shack, they’re all gone. Barnes and Noble, Circuit City. Barnes and Noble never upgraded, or updated into electronic where—no, I’m sorry. It was Borders. It was Borders that didn’t upgrade to the electronic. Barnes and Nobel’s did with their e-reader, right? The Kindle. 

So, those companies are now, you know, progressive and they’re all about experiences. They’re all about the experience of the user so they’re thriving and flourishing in their own little industries.

Adriane:

Sure. And I’m thinking about libraries. Even when you said the memory jar, some early memories that I have—I remember going into my elementary school library, and even seeing something as simple as a bulletin board that had Valentine’s Day on it.

Ranny Lacanienta:

Right.

Adriane:

And, just tying that to the fun of school, and the fact that I got to go into that school library and pick out my own books, which I absolutely loved. So, it doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be a ride where they’re piping in orange scent, right? This can be just something simple that a child might remember when they grow up. And then, they have a fondness for libraries, or like you said, those conversations we have as people as resources. 

Question #13: I had this amazing conversation with my neighbor at the library.  And, that gives me a fondness for libraries because it’s experiential. Are those the kind of things that you’re talking about? Or, how deep do we have to go into this as librarians? 22:15 

Ranny Lacanienta:

No, that’s absolutely right. That’s part of the entire thing. There’s still types of moments and experiences that you want to capture. Because again, that’s the one—that’s the main product that the library ought to offer instead of, you know, checking out books, and things like that. Like I said, those are the ones that just become props and background processes.

And of course, there’s the technology nowadays. In this era of technology there’s so many things we can do to heighten the experience, right? Just things that come to mind are text messaging, for example. Beacons, for example, where a mom and their children come into the library and the librarian knows about it, and it so happens that your library will have a storytime in the next fifteen minutes. Why not text that mother, or patron and say, Hey, we have a storytime that’s happening in like, fifteen minutes, would you like to attend? That sort of thing.

So those are, you know, from the technology sense are the ones that heighten the experience for our library patrons.

Adriane:

Question #14: Sure, which is your field now with SirsiDynix—is the technology interaction and how that can enhance the experience. Which is exciting, because there are many databases that we have access to. And letting people know that audio books, e-reader books—having a lot of that side of it coming in. But, also the quiet of—I get to tuck in, in a pretty spot, maybe under a window in my library and open a book and remember reading a beautiful poem, or maybe a classic novel. Those are experiences as well. 23:37

Ranny Lacanienta:

Right, no, absolutely. Like I said, you touch the points of the heart, and I kind of touched on the points of technology, for example. Those combined are the experiences that we need to harness.

Adriane:

I really like that.

Ranny Lacanienta:

And you know, just to give you another example, as far as convenience and experiences in libraries—I talked about beacons where it senses the person that is now in the library. And libraries can, again, send text messages to that particular patron and say, Hey, you have holds at the circulation desk. We have that ready for you to pick up, as soon as you come out of the building.

Adriane:

Wow.

Ranny Lacanienta:

That sort of thing, right? Those are the type of customer service, and customer experience that you’d like your patrons to have.

Adriane:

Question #15: Right. So, maybe they could sign up with us with their library card, and then as they walk through your gates it knows that you’re there, and it can remind you about these things that are happening. And, create an experience that is something you will enjoy as a particular user in the library. How fascinating. So, it sounds like you can do this at many levels in your library. 25:06

Ranny Lacanienta:

Oh, absolutely.

Adriane:

Question #16: Either high tech, like you, Ranny. Or, low tech like me, [laughter] who wants to tuck into the corner with a book. But, maybe the sunshine is just so beautiful that it was compelling to me that day. Or, maybe the librarian took a moment to say hi to me, and made me feel welcome, which is that feeling part of the library experience. There are so many ways… 25:30

Ranny Lacanienta:

…there’s so many ways. There’s not just one way. You have to encompass the whole thing, you know, all of these different facets in building that experience. It’s not just technology. It’s not just the heartfelt type of moments. It’s education again, it’s the knowledge. It’s everything that you bring to make an immersive type of experience.

Adriane:

And memorable…

Ranny Lacanienta:

Absolutely.

Adriane:

Question #17: Oh, gosh, that’s great. Is there anything else you want to share? 26:15 

Ranny Lacanienta:

At this point, I think you know I’d like to share my favorite books and resources.

Adriane:

Yes, please.

Ranny Lacanienta:

I based this podcast on, again it’s The Experience Economy by Joe Payne and Jim Gillmore. This book was written like, I believe, the late 1990’s. It’s just being manifested now in our economy, right? There have been different economies back, way back when, right? And now, we’re in the experience economy, and before that was the service economy, and before was the industrial economy, and the commodities, and all that.

But this one touches on all of those points. I would suggest Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. Those are the ones that are, you know, you were referring to where it’s all about feelings and the precious moments that we can build for our patrons, and that we need to celebrate.

And then, I mentioned about 3rd4All by Aat Vos.  That’s A-a-t V-o-s, is his last name. Those are the things—you’ll get a feel for what we’re talking about here today as you read those three books.

Adriane:

Question #18: Thank you, they sound like great resources, and I’m going to dig right in and read those all myself. I appreciate that. And Ranny, it’s been really fun having you here today, and to have a colleague that goes so far back working here, locally. And, I was going to ask you in closing, what does working in the library profession mean to you, personally? 27:48 

Ranny Lacanienta:

Knowledge is power, right? And as librarians, we’re purveyors of knowledge, right? So again, as I alluded to earlier, my professor at Syracuse School of Information Studies referred to libraries as kindling for knowledge. And, that has stuck with me the rest of the time since I’ve heard it. And, that’s what we promote as librarians, that’s what we support.

We are at the heart of our communities, whether that be in our cities, or campus communities for higher ed. We ought to be able to bring people back into our library spaces so they can congregate, they can associate, and ideate.

Adriane:

That’s awesome.

Ranny Lacanienta:

So, I guess offering these proper experiences will be the future metric for true relevancy in libraries in this modern era of technology. And, I really dedicate the rest of my library career so that transformation, with the focus on immersive experiences, emerges in our profession sooner rather than later.

Adriane:

Fantastic. Thank you for engaging in that work. It’s really important and I’m so glad we got to talk together today.

Ranny Lacanienta:

It was my pleasure, Adriane, I enjoyed it. Thanks for having me.

Adriane:

Thank you.

You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Adriane Herrick Juarez. Our producer is Nate Vineyard. More episodes can be found at libraryleadershippodcast.com, where you can now subscribe to have new shows delivered right into your email inbox. You can also find the show on Apple iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next time.

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