An inspiring event that showcases global excellence and ambition in library service, the tour aims to share best practice, and inspire professionals across the world.
Working in Wales
The scene for the day was adeptly set by Alun Prescott, operations manager at Newport City Council and vice-chair of Society of Chief Librarians Wales. Alun celebrated the fantastic work already happening in libraries and within the wider community in Wales, highlighting the need for developing the Welsh libraries portal, and the migration to a single ‘public library management system,’ which is scheduled for 2019.
The new system will start the ball rolling for the development of more robust analytics and benchmarking, all very positive and exciting indeed.
Learning from developments overseas
Next was an update from much further afield. Geoff Strempel, the associate director of public library services at the State Library of South Australia, gave an overview of the innovative work happening across the pond. Gone are the days of a physical library card, engagement has been upped by the introduction of an app instead, so users can receive library updates instantly too.
With this in mind, a central internet service provider (ISP) providing wifi to all the libraries has been contracted, achieving a seamless experience across all locations, with an overarching aim to create the opportunity to remove any physical barriers to library use.
User experience (UX) must be central
With so much activity happening online every day, your average library has a hard job competing, despite the quality resources worthy of sharing. Keynote speaker Jeff Penka, vice-president of product management at Zepheira, was on hand to discuss ideas surrounding the propagation of the data, and the need for a data strategy to do this successfully.
Jeff explained that libraries need to start thinking of web presence in terms of data, and proposed thinking about the following questions: Are you managing your web presence effectively? Are you registered with Google business? Do you have a Wikipedia page? These are the best places to start linking data and making it searchable.
Library users as the focus
Our next keynote speaker, also from Australia, was Jane Cowell, the director of engagement and partnerships at the State Library of Queensland. She highlighted the need for better library UX and that the user, not the library, needs to be at the centre of everything.
Personalisation of library services for the library user is key. Netflix was used as a prime example, as it spends a fortune on its recommended engine to push content to the user. Privacy was an initial concern amongst the audience, but Jane immediately debunked any worries by suggesting that we should let users know what privacy is, what we will use their data for and let them choose. This is a commonly accepted practice, and something users are familiar with.
Technology can also help with collection management by changing the rules ad hoc to suit the user, for example, different borrowing periods (Jane queried why libraries across the world had only one borrowing period - as this is distinctly archaic now).
WHELF’s shared library management system
The day was rounded off with a presentation from Emma Adamson, director of learning services at the University of South Wales and chair of the Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum (WHELF). Emma talked about the WHELF shared library management system that has now been completed and showed us a sneak preview into the results of the Jisc-funded benefits realisation report which has just been published by Cambridge Econometrics).
I have previously blogged about the report, but one of the key things learned and explored further at the event was that it was about people and not products, and that WHELF kept people central throughout the process. WHELF are looking to build on this great work by looking at piloting reciprocal borrowing, data management, and linking to the Jisc learning analytics project among other things.
How we’re helping
Overall this was an interesting day that got me thinking about how to get the rich data in libraries out there and visible to everyone, and how our projects like learning analytics and the National Bibliographic Knowledgebase can do just that.
In Wales we’re working on a digital strategy for post-16 education, which will help to pull together a lot of threads for library users, ensuring more joined-up digital services. We also offer consultancy from our subject specialist teams to ensure we explore issues and support our members through them, ensuring that any solution found is accessible to all.
If you would like to know more, get in touch with your account manager or watch this space!