Research template for a digital library

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

The digital revolution has changed library user behaviour and nationally footfall loans are decreasing. The experience for users is inconsistent and councils aren’t keeping up with digital trends. We propose to conduct research into digital library services and produce a template for user research that all local authorities can benefit from.

The Libraries Deliver Taskforce report tells us that libraries must adopt modern, digital platforms to:

  • Make libraries relevant again for a new digital generation
  • Act as a hub for information
  • Ensure everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential

Croydon council is transforming their library services. Libraries will be hubs where residents access a wide range of locally tailored preventative services. Digital experiences and guided self-service will be a central part of the overall design. In all partner authorities, procurement strategies are underway to recommend moving to new library management systems (LMS). This presents a rare opportunity to modernise library services and transform the user experience.

Canada Water Library was the most popular individual library in London for item loans last year. We want to exploit this success story to research and understand how use of the physical space can be translated to digital.

The problem faced by libraries is one of lack of digital expertise to carry out user-centred design. Without specialist support and funding, application and hardware upgrades often result in a lift and shift transition.

We intend to deliver a discovery phase for this problem in line with the GDS service manual in collaboration with the listed partners.

While some in-house capability will be available from partner authorities, we will run a Digital Marketplace procurement to appoint a specialist company to lead the discovery.

The company will be asked to conduct:

  • User research with prioritised users and stakeholders
  • Research into digital library exemplars
  • Research into how the user experience across all digital tools and services can be made seamless for library users – both physically and online

By the end of discovery we will produce:

  • A template for user research when undertaking application procurement
  • A user research report, comprising:
    • How have different councils approached a digital user experience for libraries and how effective those methods have been
    • How libraries can link together various technology platforms to create a seamless customer experience
    • A series of end to end customer journeys describing the experience for library users and how it relates to the physical library experience
  • The benefits case for developing an alpha project to build a framework to empower library staff to make the most of the opportunity of application procurements without needing extensive specialist digital design skills

We expect the project to last 3 months, with insights delivered and shared at the end of each sprint. In addition to regular blogs through the discovery phase, outputs will be published for the wider community to share the findings, stimulate debate and ensure that any progression to alpha will meet common needs across councils.

  • Projected project timeline:
    • Inception: Dec 10 – Feb 1 2019
    • Research sprints: Feb 4 – Mar 15 2019
    • Final report & documentation: Mar 18 – Mar 29 2019
    • Outputs to be published by Mar 29 2019

The main benefit of the research we plan to undertake will be an estimated saving of £50,000 per local authority through the production of a template for digital user research & design when undertaking an LMS procurement. By completing research and producing a template for other local authorities to follow, it reduces the need for procuring outside expertise to run this type of exercise.

If the project moves to alpha, the benefits increase since producing template design patterns could lead to greater savings. Digital design is a specialist skill that would not exist in most library functions and in-house digital teams in local authorities are still a rarity.

Current challenges to library services that could be disrupted through undertaking this work include:

  • Decreasing library visits and loans nationally
  • Reduced budgets with increased demand for opening hours
  • Legacy system costs
  • Poor customer experience not achieving outcomes desired by the libraries deliver strategy
  • Disconnected systems and tools leading to a fragmented customer experience
  • Low uptake of online library content
  • Increased need for digital expertise to ensure LMS procurement meet government digital standards – likely to be skipped due to lack of time and knowledge

Potential benefits to library services in undertaking this work:

  • Improved user experience
  • Increased use of library as core community hubs
  • Libraries strengthening their role as recognised providers of digital access, inclusion and skills
  • Use of library as staff hubs allowing flexible working and reduced desk use in offices
  • 3rd party income from co-location
  • Revenue generation from digital events
  • Increased uptake of digital loans & audiobooks
  • Standardisation of digital systems leading to easier support and maintenance and improved experience for library users and staff

Partners will work with the delivery supplier, providing local insight, staff, and customers. We will draw on Croydon’s success as LGA Digital Council of the Year 2017 and Southwark’s high usage and book issues at Canada Water, understanding how a successful physical space can be translated to digital.

Each Council will contribute to supply data, stats and access to local knowledge and insight in order to create an extensive research library.

Delivery leads for each borough will participate in fortnightly conferences with the supplier to discuss progress, and updates be published online for the duration of the project. Wider participation beyond the core team will be sought through local and online networks.

We’ll work with national organisations like the Libraries Taskforce and the British Library, who are undertaking their own projects such as the single digital presence for libraries. Our research will compliment these projects and bring a shorter term practical approach for Councils who will need to take smaller transformative steps towards this goal.

By the end of the project we will publish:

  • A template for user research when undertaking application procurement
  • A user research report, comprising:
    • How have different councils approached a digital user experience for libraries and how effective those methods have been
    • A digital library digital service framework comprising all digital technology a library user would need and how they might be joined up to create the best experience
    • How libraries can prepare for future digital trends
    • A series of end to end customer journeys describing the experience for library users and how it relates to the physical library experience
    • User research with prioritised users and stakeholders
    • Research into digital library exemplars
    • Research into how the user experience across all digital tools and services can be made seamless for library users – both physically and online
  • The benefits case and proposal for developing an alpha project – at this stage we think a likely conclusion could be to build a framework to empower library staff to make the most of the opportunity of application procurements without needing extensive specialist digital design skills, but this will be tested through our discovery work
  • A business case setting out options, cost/benefits and recommended next steps

Library user groups we propose to research:

  • User demographics
  • Regular & casual users
  • Non users
  • Residents & visitors
  • Types of use (education, business, cultural, access to services,
  • Library staff
  • Council staff
  • Other government services
  • 3rd party orgs
  • 3rd sector

We would engage with them through surveys, interviews, observation and shadowing.

The following are our proposed user research objectives:

  • To identify using analytics pages were users were most likely to abandon transactions:
  • To identify pinch points in the business process which slowed down their operations.
  • To identify parts of the user journey where users were unable to self-serve to satisfy the business process.
  • To gather customer experience analytics on the use of digital touch points in libraries

Key questions in the discovery exercise would be:

  • How might we learn from popular physical library success and translate it to a digital experience?
  • What do customers want from an online library service and what is their experience of the existing offer?
  • How would digital innovation actually benefit existing library customers?
  • How might we better collaborate with other libraries and share data across a common platform?
  • How might we adopt best practice approaches from exemplar libraries?

The core objective for this discovery is to analyse everything libraries do that is ‘digital’ – which includes the physical technology used to navigate a library (from printing, scanning, reserving space, loaning, accessing the internet, to out of hours access, archives access, code clubs & maker spaces)  – and use user research to understand how we might join all those things up into one great customer experience.

None required

We have not applied for nor been granted funding for this project in the past.

Comment on or support this project

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.