The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) has begun work to envision a unified digital platform for all public libraries in England. This new digital platform for public libraries will improve how library customers can access, understand, and use the information and resources that libraries provide, including book catalogues, digital resources, IT training, events calendars, and library locations and opening hours. This web platform will help bring new users into public libraries, both virtually and physically, and enrich the library experience for existing customers.
As a result of a public tender for the work, SCL appointed BiblioCommons, a Canadian company that works to transform how libraries serve communities online. The initial phase of the project, which is funded by a £30,000 grant from Arts Council England, will research consumer and library sector needs and create a vision and roadmap for the unified digital platform. Work on stage 1 is expected to complete at the end of March 2015.
This project comes at a crucial time for public libraries as they work to keep up with the digital demands of today's consumer and to address the challenges highlighted in the recent Independent Report on Public Libraries, chaired by William Sieghart. In drawing all public library information and resources under one platform, SCL will expand customers' access to the Universal Offers for Public Libraries, which connect people with valuable skills and information in five key areas crucial to well-being: Health, Reading, Digital, Learning and Information.
The project will work with SCL's key partners and stakeholders who share an interest in providing content for a unified web platform. These groups include: The British Library, The Reading Agency, the Combined Regions, Collections Trust, OCLC and Library 21, a project which explores how, in a digital age, we can make the public library space the most thrilling place to go for readers and give the public access to an unprecedented range of digital content.
Ciara Eastell, SCL President, said: ‘Libraries are powerful and free sources of information and knowledge. They can and do change people's lives, and this project is the next step on an important journey for public libraries in making all that information available at the click of a mouse. We hope this first stage helps secure the investment needed to deliver the project fully.'
Beth Jefferson, Co-Founder and CEO of Bibliocommons, said: ‘We are thrilled to be working with the SCL and its stakeholders to advance the vision of a unified digital platform. Libraries have long supported their communities through branch locations that contain clear information, helpful resources, and edifying cultural works, programs, and events. This strengthens individuals, and builds communities. Today, as the SCL makes clear in its announcement, to do so means extending that rich array of individual resources and shared experiences online. The strength of libraries and of their communities depends upon it. We look forward to working with stakeholders, libraries, customers, and even non-customers to chart a course that shows how this digital presence can be realised.'
Sue Wilkinson MBE, CEO of The Reading Agency, said: ‘The research for Library21 has identified an extraordinary opportunity for libraries to be the unique place in which publishers digital assets can be accessed for free, and we're delighted to be working with Bibliocommons to see how that can be made a reality alongside a new single, digital presence for libraries.'
Brian Ashley, Director of Libraries, Arts Council England, said: ‘Creating a strong, national digital platform for libraries is crucial. It needs to find new ways to engage people in discovering the extraordinary range and breadth of library services. So we are very pleased to be funding this important project with Society of Chief Librarians and Bibliocommons.'
The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) is a local government association made up of the chief librarian of each library authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. SCL takes a leading role in the development of public libraries, through sharing best practices, advocating for continuous improvement on behalf of local people, and leading the debate on the future of the public library service. www.goscl.com
BiblioCommons is a civic tech company that enables public libraries to better serve and engage their communities online. At the heart of its software-as-a-service solution (SaaS) for libraries is an enhanced online catalog that gathers community conversations around the library's collections, creating a rich social discovery experience akin to that found in physical library locations. To ensure community contributions reach the breadth and depth expected of the web, BiblioCommons aggregates the shared recommendations of staff and customers across all participating libraries, and integrates those contributions back into each local library catalog in intelligent ways. The results is that the web's scale is brought to serve the unique programs, places, and values of the local public library. www.bibliocommons.com
Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people's lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2010 and 2015, we will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk
The Reading Agency is an independent charity with a mission to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. It runs national programmes and partnerships across the whole library network. It is funded by the Arts Council. www.readingagency.org.uk