Many libraries work with local cultural institutions to provide patrons with free or reduced-cost access to not only museums in their area but also zoos, historical centers, gardens, theaters, science centers, arboretums, aquariums, and more. These print passes can be checked out in-house by patrons just like other resources, complete with circulation limits, due dates, and fines.
Some software companies are simplifying pass management with web-based tools to help patrons discover and check out museum passes and event tickets or make reservations. Some of these passes can even be printed at home rather than maintaining traditional physical passes that must be picked up and returned to the library.
Stacie Deng is the informations systems programmer at Contra Costa County Library (CCCL) in Martinez, CA. She’s also the architect of CCCL’s Discover & Go program, described by the library as a nationally recognized partnership between libraries and cultural attractions offering library cardholders from every community, age group, and economic background free and low-cost tickets to world-class cultural venues.
After CCCL’s decision-makers considered paper passes and manual checkouts, they chose instead to create a web-based system, letting patrons reserve, print, and go straight to other cultural institutions without ever entering a branch. Deng says the service, developed in 2011, now partners with 43 library systems and 90 cultural organizations and circulated 150,000 museum passes in 2016.
Rich Hall, CCCL’s library assistant in the virtual library department, says the museum pass offers the benefits of a library program—just not within the walls of the library. “We’re offering patrons a cultural and educational experience within the parameters of what we do, just like ebooks and databases,” Hall says.
Hall also says the passes benefit libraries by allowing tie-ins, materials suggestions, and promotions with venues; the online service is virtually foolproof for both staff and patrons.
Chad Helton, deputy county librarian for support services, adds that while museums offer additional free admission to underserved communities, the library passes provide access to these venues any day, any time, instead of only during designated free days.
This Product Spotlight looks at four firms that make it easier for libraries to partner with cultural venues to create online reservations and manage passes.
COMPANY: Quipu Group
The Quipu Group’s ePASS was developed with CCCL to serve as the underlying platform for Discover & Go [see above]. It is designed to accommodate multiple offers from multiple attractions for multiple libraries in consortia, giving each the flexibility to design specific offers to groups of patrons. Quipu Group partner Robert Anderson says this is important for getting offers to underserved patron populations and allowing the service to incorporate a variety of attractions including venues such as jazz clubs, conventions, swimming pools, and state parks. The ePASS can handle multiple offers from these attractions to target specific populations.
“The consortia capabilities within the system make it an excellent vehicle for libraries in a specific region to partner to provide patrons with access to a larger number of attractions than a single library could provide,” Anderson says.
In addition, Anderson adds, “ePASS was primarily developed to allow multiple libraries to work together in order to solicit offers that benefit the group…. Libraries have control over the number of passes available to a single patron in order to make passes available to more patrons, and the options provide a way to customize each offer to match the requirements of each attraction.”
Some features of ePASS include the ability to restrict passes based on age, zip code, patron type, and more; the option for patrons or staff to cancel reservations; the option to attach book lists to venue offers; reservation and usage reports by venue and organization; responsive design for mobile devices; and the ability to centralize or share administration with multiple venues and libraries. For more information, visit quipugroup.com.
COMPANY: Capira Technologies
One of the goals of MuseumKey was to simplify the experience for the patron by avoiding convoluted navigation or listing repetitive data. MuseumKey’s goal is to guide the patron with simple questions, for example, “How would you like to search for a museum pass?” and “Which museum or on what date would you like to visit?”
The streamlined web application facilitates easy navigation of the mobile-ready, responsive reservation calendar, in addition to providing patron authentication, email notifications, and usage statistics. MuseumKey’s creative director and project manager Jason Ladick says it’s currently the only museum pass reservation product using SSL encryption to ensure the security of patron information.
“MuseumKey was [intended] primarily to address common complaints levied against other products occupying the market space,” Ladick says. “Museum passes are an expensive but quite popular investment for libraries. These offerings warrant a more sophisticated solution that guides a patron through the process and makes the potential complexity of museum pass reservation as painless as possible.”
Ladick points to the amount of staff time saved after initial configuration as one of the greatest assets MuseumKey has brought to organizations working with museum passes.
“Adding a new museum or providing availability information is as simple as a single click by integrating with MuseumKey Sync, our comprehensive database of museum information,” Ladick says. MuseumKey Sync also offers the automatic integration of museum closing dates on the reservation calendar, saving staff hours of seeking and entering the information themselves. For further information, visit capiratech.com.
LibraryInsight develops web-based software for the public library market. Its mp.Insight module allows staff to configure, manage, and maintain a web-based museum pass circulation system from which patrons and staff can view available museum passes and dates as well as make online reservations via a patron’s library card number and PIN. When connected to an integrated library system, the module can be configured to manage patron access to the pass reservation system based on age, fine balance, expired card, and blocked status and will only show dates that are valid for the specific museum by referring to each museum’s operating schedule and available reservations. mp.Insight also features statistical reports that can be run monthly, quarterly, or for up to a full year.
According to LibraryInsight’s website, a few of the module’s key features include the ability to track circulating, overdue, and no-show passes; email reminders of pass pick-ups and expirations; barcode scanner checkout and checkin of passes; and one-time use such as concert tickets. All public screens are compatible with mobile devices, too. Passes must be picked up at the library.
LibraryInsight offers live, over-the-web demonstrations during which decision-makers can see both the patron and the back end of the system and ask questions in real time.
For more information, visit libraryinsight.com.
COMPANY: Plymouth Rocket
With TixKeeper, libraries can list available passes online in a calendar format, and patrons can use the TixKeeper program through the library’s website to browse a list of available passes for the next few days or select a day from the calendar. After the pass or passes are reserved, they must be picked up or “borrowed” from the library and returned to that location after the event or visit, instead of printed from the site.
Because the program is hosted from the library’s own web page, patrons without Internet access are still able to call and have an employee reserve a pass for them.
TixKeeper offers a one-year subscription that can track a maximum of 1,000 reservations at once. The subscription includes an initial guided setup as well as unlimited technical support. If security is a concern, TixKeeper offers a patron authentication option that requires patrons to log in with their library card number or other form of verification. This subscription includes a more comprehensive consultation and guided setup to determine the security needs of the library.
TixKeeper offers a dynamic interface and a customizable page. Its template is responsive, meaning that the dimensions of the site are formatted differently depending on the device on which it is displayed. This ensures that text is clear and legible whether the patron is on a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Because TixKeeper records passes as physical objects that need to be checked in and out as opposed to items patrons can print from home, Plymouth Rocket’s website notes that this software can be used to reserve and keep track of other items, such as mobile hot spots, AV equipment, or other specialized resources available to patrons. For more information, visit eventkeeper.com.