Technology ‘key to library cost savings’

Better technology can help councils drive visits to public libraries while cutting administrative costs, according to a new report.

Library technology supplier has carried out a survey of 2,000 adults to explore usage of libraries – which councils need to provide as a statutory duty.

It said better technology can help libraries can understand their customers’ preferences better and use this information to target them with more personalised communications.

The report said: “It’s not about being ‘big data’ experts but using technology to leverage data to essentially be able to offer people what they want.

“As William Sieghart [a UK philanthropist, entrepreneur and publisher]  stated, the new librarian needs to become ‘a community impresario with digital and commercial expertise who can champion their communities’ needs’.”

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It cited the example of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Carolina, USA, which has implemented a tool to group visitors based on their activities, allowing librarians to target them on a more personal level and increase visitor numbers.

The report said that developments in technology, such as the digitisation of books for tablets and e-readers, had increased over the past two decades, creating challenges and opportunities for public libraries.

In 1997, only 5% of libraries had internet access, but by 2004 this had risen to 67%, it said. Around one in five respondents now visit libraries to access the internet, the report said.

In addition, the role of the librarian is changing, involving more online service skills and stock management, it added.

The research showed that those surveyed had an appetite for more digitally-focused services, with 37% calling for ICT training, 31% for e-books, 22% for digital learning and 22% for a community page.

Nick Poole, CILIP chief executive, said: “What libraries do has never been confined within the walls of the building – they are in our lives and in our communities.

“Delivered by professional staff and working in partnership libraries are increasingly using new technologies and changes in the way we acquire and share knowledge to provide truly life-changing services that meet our needs today.”  

Colin Marrs

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