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Libraries Revolutionized: The Spread of BYOD from Businesses to Libraries

A recent NPR story highlights how libraries are changing from institutions for book storage to spheres for public gathering. Rather than simply being a space where people consume information,modern libraries are now a space where people create. From businesses to novels, a lot of this creative activity has forced libraries to shift toward technology.

Outfitted with expensive electronic equipment that most patrons wouldn't have access to on their own, areas like the digital commons at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library are a popular part of many new or remodeled libraries, but just as some libraries are expanding their own electronic collections, others are following the lead of the business world and implementing BYOD (bring your own device) policies.

The Rise of BYOD

A growing trend in the business world, BYOD policies encourage employees to bring their own devices to work. The result is less time spent training employees how to use foreign systems, increased productivity, and potentially lowered technology costs. The drawbacks include security risks, which are often mitigated by special bring your own device software that allows users to switch between personal and work modes on their devices, and confusion over intellectual property ownership. As BYOD practices spread from businesses to libraries, libraries are noticing their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

BYOD for Library Patrons

When library patrons arrive with their own mobile devices and laptops, it creates a constant drain on the library's Wi-Fi, and this makes the purchase of a high volume Wi-Fi service essential for most libraries. Patron BYOD also affects the role of librarians — according to Public Libraries Online, librarians are now charged with helping consumers download e-books to their personal e-readers more often than they help patrons check out paper books. To support patron BYOD, libraries simply need to train their staff members in how to assist and manage patrons who want to use their own devices.

BYOD for Library Employees

One of the main advantages of implementing a BYOD policy for library employees is that it allows a library to test the efficacy of various electronics without having to budget for their cost. For instance, when an employee brings in an iPad for story time, the library director may find that it engages the toddlers more effectively than a paper book. Armed with that information, the director can then make the decision about whether or not she wants to purchase one for the library.

If you are thinking about implementing a BYOD policy for the employees at your library, you will need to lay a few ground rules about which type of devices your employees can bring as well as rules about when and how they can use those devices. For example, if your employees aren't allowed to play video games with the computer at the reference desk, they shouldn't be allowed to play games with their phone or e-reader either.

Instead of just making rules, keep your employees engaged in the transition. Ask for their ideas on ways to make the policy successful. Do they simply want to use their 4G-enabled devices when the library Wi-Fi goes down, or do they want to use their own phones to show patrons how to use the library apps? Mine your employees for ideas because they have plenty of them.

Preparing for BYOD

In spite of the advantages of BYOD programs, you will encounter hurdles along the way. While most libraries have security measures in place to deal with the shared Wi-Fi, you may need to implement security measures and rules about which devices your tech team handles, what kind of data your employees can download to their personal devices, and more. Before implementing a Bring Your Own Device program, Blackberry recommends adopting a program that can combine the interests of your users with your security goals. For example, some programs allow users to set two profiles on their devices — one for work and one for home. By setting clear boundaries, you will increase your chances of having a successful BYOD experience.