In today’s New York Times there is a short article about the use of cellphones as a coupon delivery mechanism. What an interesting idea. And, what an even more interesting idea, when put within the lens of a library and serving teens within the library. For example, what if via their cellphones teens could access a coupon for:

  • A percentage off on making photocopies, or even a waiver on paying for copying?
  • A percentage off on their fines, or even a waiver of their fines?
  • An invitation to be one of the first people to be able to checkout a new book of a favorite author? (Or a new CD from a favorite musician, a new DVD with a favorite actor, a new game within a favorite genre, etc.)
  • The opportunity to be one of the first to try out a new program or service at the library? Do you want to know if teens are interested in something? Send them a coupon invite, via their cellphones, to try something out and let the redemption of the coupons fill you in on what their interests are.

These coupons might be redeemed inside the library or online. That would depend on what the coupon was for of course. Certainly, a coupon for photocopying would be used inside the library. But a coupon invitation for trying out a new program or service – if that service is virtual – could be used wherever the teen is. (In the library, at home, at the house of a friend, in school, at a coffee shop, etc.) The ability to use different coupons in different environments extends opportunities for the library to meet the needs of a variety of teens in a variety of locations.

In thinking about the use of cellphones as a device for mobile coupons, it’s pretty exciting to also think about a teen’s library card being right inside the phone. That would mean no more carrying around an extra piece of plastic. No more worrying about having that extra piece of plastic in their wallet, pocket, or whatever. Teens with cellphones tend to have them in their possession 24/7. That means that a library card in their cellphone would be with a teen 24/7.

Of course not all teens have cellphones. The idea of mobile coupons doesn’t suggest that it’s the only way a library would connect with and meet the needs of teen customers. However, it is another way to reach teens that might not be traditional library users.

There are certainly lots of possibilities for using this nascent technology. And, since it’s a new technology, it’s the perfect time for librarians serving teens to get involved. Why not start investigating now what mobile coupon technology is all about? Find out how teens and the library can be on the cutting edge. Talk with teens about the technology, see what ideas they have for its use, and ask them for their thoughts on how to learn more about what’s possible. Wouldn’t it be exciting if the teens in your library were some of the first to test out something that’s brand new in world of technology and the world of cellphones?

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

One Thought on “Being on the Cutting Edge with a Cellphone

  1. Kelly Czarnecki on April 20, 2008 at 9:49 am said:

    Many libraries have gift shops or cafes. Coupons might be a great incentive for those as well. is a site where tshirts and other paraphernalia can be created to advertise to text a word to a number and then get more information. This could be used to advertise library services. Many teens at my library already add their library card number to their cell phone. Encouraging it even more with incentives is a great idea for them to have it with them all the time.

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