Medway Libraries has gone live with its new community information service About Medway. About Medway offers an accessible place on the web where Medway citizens can carry out a single search against a collection of information from over six hundred organisations, services and groups.
Medway are partners in seamlessUK, the NOF funded project initiated by Essex County Council designed to create easy access to local community information alongside national information providers. About Medway is also the first of the seamlessUK partner authority sites to go live and follows the release earlier this year of lead partner Essex County Council's seamlessUK service, named EssexOnline.
About Medway brings together library ‘approved' local and nationally provided information resources. Medway Libraries carried out an audit of local community databases and websites to select the most appropriate information. Library staff worked in partnership with local groups to provide or enhance their metadata before making it available via About Medway. As partners in the seamlessUK project, Medway have had the added advantage of plugging-in information from national information providers such as National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (NACAB), NHS.UK and NHS Direct. Further seamlessUK resources from providers which include the BBC, are scheduled to be made available shortly.
“About Medway is both a service and a community partnership and is the culmination of a four year vision by Medway Libraries to deliver an integrated approach to community information for Medway citizens,” says Helen Leech, About Medway Project Manager, Medway Libraries. “The service will join together ‘information islands' that have until now been a barrier to delivering the right community information to the right people at the right time.”
About Medway uses Fretwell-Downing Informatics (FDI) CPORTAL technology to integrate access to the different resources, to plug in SeamlessUK and to provide a configurable interface with the single search feature. Information is integrated at the point of use which enables Medway to re-use data that already exists without having to take ownership of the data. By using CPORTAL standards-based technology Medway has been able to offer the widest choice of resources and plug together existing community databases and services and integrate them with selected webbased information resources.
Leech adds, “Delivering About Medway has been a steep learning curve for us. We were delighted to be awarded NOF funding in 2000 and the opportunity to become a seamlessUK project partner opened up important national information sources to the citizens of Medway. There were other added bonuses too. The partnership has given us a head start on implementing a thesaurus, taking away the need to devise and implement our own. With metadata being a new subject area for Medway we again benefited from seamlessUK's experience in this field and therefore adopted their metadata profile to ensure that targets are tagged correctly.”
Medway Libraries will promote About Medway within Medway Council as a service that plays a key role in supporting front-line enquiry points. The service has the potential to develop into a council wide service that supports ongoing strategic council goals of delivering services online.
The impact of the project is expected to be that website hits will increase and the number of community information requests made in public libraries will reduce. An increase in website hits has already been seen in Essex, following the launch of EssexOnline their community information service and seamlessUK portal. In the three months since the service went live searches on the site have risen by almost 50%.
About Medway will be officially launched to Medway citizens on 21 November 2003 and can be visited at www.aboutmedway.info
About Medway Libraries
Medway Council is one of the largest unitary authorities in the south-east with over 250,000 people living within its boundaries. Medway Council runs Medway Library, Information and Museum Service. Access to the Internet is available free at 15 libraries and the service has extended the number of PCs available with New Opportunities Funding. The service plays a key role in the delivery of the Council's e-government services. The About Medway project will improve electronic access to information for the citizens of Medway.
About Fretwell-Downing Informatics
Fretwell-Downing Informatics (FDI) has a long history of supplying leading-edge information management solutions to over 200 organisations worldwide. FDI operates from its headquarters in the UK with a US subsidiary, Fretwell-Downing Inc., in North America plus additional offices in Australia and Europe. FDI's experience has resulted in a suite of welldesigned solutions including information portals, library management, resource sharing, document delivery and data publishing. The company's freedom by design philosophy is underpinned by a strong software development team and a commitment to interoperability and open standards – such as NISO Z39.50, Dublin Core. This enables FDI components to be built into a total solution or integrated alongside existing technologies.
Essex County Council, lead partners in seamlessUK, have announced a series of dates for seamlessUK regional seminars. The seminars will take place during October and November at various sites around the UK. They will provide an introduction to the seamlessUK service and how local authorities can join. To find out more visit www.seamless-uk.info.