Search the library without searching the library

Want to make use of all your library has to offer, but not sure how to find anything since they did away with the card catalogue?

Worry no more. Koios is here.

The brainchild of University of South Carolina business alumnus Trey Gordner and named for the Greek Titan-god of the inquisitive mind, Koios helps users find books and other media in their local library. But it does it quietly in the background while users are actually searching for items on other sites.

“Our goal is to remind people of the resources that are already available to them,” says Gordner, a 24-year-old native of Fayetteville, N.C., who came to Carolina as a McNair Scholar and majored in international business and entrepreneurship.

The idea started to germinate when Gordner was a student working in the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at University Libraries.

“They were able to attract researchers from all over the world, but we couldn’t get students in there,” Gordner says. “That was when I put on my entrepreneurial cap for the first time. I began to think about libraries and marketing. How could we reach the average student?”

The idea continued to grow after graduation when he was invited by Richland Library in Columbia to join a library redesign advisory board.

Now Gordner has gotten Richland Library to agree to let its patrons test his software. Patrons can download the extension to their Google Chrome browsers. It will run in the background while they are searching for products like books or recorded material on sites like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Koios will notify them when a certain product is available at Richland Library and give them an opportunity to reserve it with one click. 

Reaching new audiences

For the library, it is just another way to reach its audience in an ever-changing media environment. Richland Library, for example, offers ebooks and audiobooks that can be downloaded straight to patrons’ devices with no need to even stop by a library branch. This year, the library began offering video streaming services, up to 10 videos a month for free, says Phillip Higgins, the library’s manager of marketing and digital strategy.

“Libraries are always looking for better ways to help customers access the resources they need or want,” Higgins says, adding that Richland Library also looks for ways to help young entrepreneurs in Columbia.

“Through a variety of programs and resources, we work every day to see the entrepreneurial spirit thrive throughout Richland County,” Higgins says. “And, like so many of those entrepreneurs we help throughout the year, Trey is a focused and dedicated individual.”

Gordner says he see a time when customers of Netflix who cannot access the video they want via streaming can be alerted to whether their local library has the item available. Koios wouldn’t be competition, he says, because there is a limit to the number of titles such services can offer at any one time for viewing online.

“In some ways, I think it would be helping those services by supplementing their offerings,” Gordner says. “It would just be another way to satisfy their customers.”

Team effort

Developing Koios and getting it off the ground has been a team effort, Gordner says, one with a decidedly Gamecock flavor. Of the six people working on Koios, two are UofSC graduates and three were foreign exchange students at the university.

Koios has been helped by the firedUP accelerator program at the Technology Incubator and Gordner’s full-time job at Pandoodle, a computer software and marketing firm in the university’s Technology Incubator.

All of these programs designed to help create and foster homegrown businesses are under the umbrella of the university’s Office of Economic Engagement, led by Bill Kirkland. The office serves as the single point of contact for anyone who wants to partner with the university to promote economic growth statewide.

“The university has been crucial to the development of Koios,” Gordner says. “There have been so many opportunities to meet with mentors. Bill introduced us to one of our best advisers.” 

Learn more

To learn more about the entrepreneurial opportunities at the University of South Carolina, visit the Office of Economic Engagement’s website. To be a beta tester for Trey Gordner’s browser extension, visit the Koios website.

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