Library websites ‘need to break free from councils’

English libraries need to break away from council websites and create a new common national online architecture, according to the Society of Chief Librarians.

A new study concluded that because library websites are currently buried within local authority websites, they are difficult to find and navigate.

It added that search-engine optimisation for library services is poor, with appearances a rarity in searches for book reviews or discussions.

The report said to improve the situation would involve “moving away from monolithic architectures where data is not comprehensive, comparable, or actionable to modular architectures where it can be leveraged at a national scale”.

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A survey of library staff carried out by the study authors found frustration that citizens and politicians are unaware of the depth and breadth of services offered by their local library.
It said that a national platform was essential to help share best practice and improve marketing.

“Once implemented, a platform for national data collection and sharing will be a basis for enhancing staff skills and developing higher value-added analytics work,” the report said.

“It will also create value for partner agencies, and the publishing and education sectors.”

Continuing to use the same content management system (CMS) as used for other council services is not sustainable, the report said.

“This CMS will not likely be successful if the same commodity solution used for other services in the local council is also used here. In contrast to the transactional and didactic needs of a council site, the needs of a library site are experiential and social.”

The society will now engage with partners and library users to determine what level of investment is needed to achieve the project aims.

Kathy Settle, chief executive of the government-appointed Leadership for Libraries Taskforce, said: “This report is an important first step in understanding what is needed and what could be achieved through a unifying digital presence for libraries.”

Colin Marrs

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