E-Government Tool Reviews: Cultural Pass (Jefferson County, Colorado)

Reviewed by Sam Fox:

As a new resident of Jefferson County, Colorado, I have been investigating their public library offerings.  A small link at the lists on the bottom of their page template said “Cultural Pass” - a click took me to a very interesting online calendar that manages a set of passes to area museums purchased by the Jefferson County Library Foundation. It is designed to facilitate the maximum use of these passes by library patrons and preclude their abuse with several internal limits. Its intended audience is library patrons interested in visiting area cultural facilities sans entrance fee.

The tool is laid out simply and cleanly. At the top there is a link to a PDF that outlines the rules of the Pass - chief among them that a patron can only book two passes in a thirty day period and only one date per venue at any given time.

In the middle of the page there are three drop down menus to set your search parameters - venue, availability and date range (up to 30 days in advance). Several of the venues are lesser-known museums (Dinosaur Ridge, Denver Firefighters Museum) and several are marquee facilities in the area (Museum of Contemporary Art, History Colorado Center). The tool allows a patron to swiftly select a desired venue and available dates to secure a pass.  Once a date and venue are selected, the patron logs in with their library card, requests a pass and a confirmation letter is provided in PDF format.  The patron prints this letter and brings it to the venue on the specified date to gain entry.

It appears to function quite well - a simple interface with specific outputs generated by specific inputs, enabled by the possession of a library card!  This is a very neat idea and a cool extension on the idea of a library - a lending collection of museum memberships. There are a few caveats provided in the FAQ document about patrons that cannot access the internet to request a pass, which is the principle barrier to this easy-to-use online utility.  A patron can call the library and make a reservation with a staff member - the staff member will then mail their confirmation letter to them, a process which the FAQ letter warns can take up to 7 business days. I would be curious to hear how many patrons pursue this path to acquire these passes instead of visiting a library branch to get online and secure their desired date(s).

I am also curious how this use of a pass is perceived by these partner organizations - do they see it as an opportunity to potentially expand their patron base in return, sort of a free trial pass? Do they have a deal with the library to share the patrons contact information after reserving a pass, to add the patron to the respective institution’s contact list? As a former nonprofit employee, I know that personal contact information is the gold standard by which patron contacts are measured by - the foundation that future support is built upon.

In sum, this is an excellent idea that if anything could be publicized further and replicated elsewhere - I would not have known about it if I hadn’t click this link! I have already shared it with several other area libraries I used to be involved with as a volunteer and patron - I hope it finds a way to replicate itself across library land.

Sam Fox is an MLS student at the University of Maryland iSchool enrolled in the eGovernment specialization. Sam is a recipient of a Laura Bush 21st Century scholarship funded by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.