From Sue Williamson, Libraries Director
As we announce a further £3.4 million investment in the Single Digital Presence platform, our Libraries Director Sue Williamson explains what it will offer to libraries and their users.
A young person is engaging with content on a computer in a library space while a member of staff assists
To be a library member is to have the ability to visit different worlds, time periods and places, through the pages of the books the library has on its shelves or in the digital realm. In the library, you can unlock new stories and perspectives through access to the Internet, as well as benefitting from the vital support services that library staff also provide for the community. All of this for free, for everyone, regardless of any other factors.
From your living room you could view those collections and exhibitions, take part in live events and activities and hear talks by leading thinkers and writers
Now, what if your library card also offered you a golden ticket to the collections, events, business support, exhibitions and more that other libraries across the country, indeed across the world, can offer? From your living room you could view those collections and exhibitions, take part in live events and activities and hear talks by leading thinkers and writers, all because you have that little plastic card.
That is the concept behind the Single Digital Presence (SDP) for libraries, which, together with the British Library, we've been working on for quite some time now. As we enter a new phase in bringing this vision to life, we are announcing a further £3.4 million to be invested in its development.
Through this investment, we'll be able to cover the costs of building the technical architecture needed to create the platform, including software development, live testing with a range of library authorities and establishing the technical protocols – all of which will enable as many web presences as possible to plug in to this national portal.
So, what exactly is the platform?
It is perhaps worth considering first what it is not: it's not a website. It will be a platform for uploading content which will be accessible to library services in the UK as the programme develops. It is also massively more than the sum of its parts. It is evolutionary and inclusive and will celebrate local public libraries and librarianship on the national and international stage.
The idea of one national platform that can host library-curated content and services, showcase exhibitions as well as promote two-way traffic with local library websites, giving national visibility to local events and collections, is not a new one.
Many countries have attempted to deliver such a portal but sadly none of those attempts have really taken off or captured the imaginations of the sector. It was therefore important that the development phase for our model was thorough. The team took the learning from others to shape what the SDP would look like and undertook extensive consultation to understand what library services really wanted. We know the platform is long awaited but taking the time to learn from others' experience will ensure it's a success for libraries and users alike.
It is evolutionary and inclusive and will celebrate local public libraries and librarianship on the national and international stage
To date, we've completed the first phase of the project: proving the concept. Showing what this would look like and seeing a mock-up front window was revelatory to me, suddenly this concept had a presence and it was exciting. It really brought to life that, as a library member in the UK, through this platform I will not only be able to find out what is going on in my local community but also be able to see what other communities are doing and to view those collections and activities from libraries all across the world, as well as exhibitions that I can only dream of visiting.
A vital part of the next phase will be involving library services in the co-creation and editorial steering of the project. As we move to this new phase of development and testing, the investment that we've announced will enable about 20% of public library services to develop their IT presence so that they can take part in the next phase of this exciting project. We'll be hoping for a wide geographical spread and looking to accommodate different business models where possible. More details on how to get involved will be made available as the project develops.
We would also like to take this moment to thank Carnegie-UK Trust for their support and investment which has been a crucial part of getting the Single Digital Presence to where it is now and we look forward to continuing to benefit from their insight and research.
This has always been a long-term project, and we, as the national development agency for public libraries, are proud to be supporting it every step of the way.