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Public libraries must adapt to survive, says Capita

By: Capita
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 08:08 GMT Jump to Comments

Reinvention and innovation may yet save the public library sector, which saw 200 libraries close in 2012, says Capita, UK's leader in business process management.

In 2012, approximately 200 public libraries closed their doors and in the coming three to four years, the industry is expecting a 10-25% reduction in budgets.  Capita’s recently launched whitepaper, Protecting Library Services considers how libraries must adapt to survive and how technology can support these new ways of working.

“Public libraries are undergoing a process of dramatic reinvention. Unrelenting budget cuts have forced public libraries to question which services they can continue to offer their customers and how they will deliver them. It’s no secret that technology has a role to play in any kind of transformation of this scale, and Capita’s paper offers food for thought from Capita’s own experience and also that of the library community,” said Karen Reece, head of libraries, Capita.

Highlights include:

+ Shared services – this approach could result in savings of between 5-25% due to increased purchasing power and efficiencies realised in sharing back office technology. There are opportunities to share with other library services, both public and academic, as well as sharing physical space with entities including post offices, medical centres and police stations or other council facilities, such as the local sports centre.

+ 24/7 libraries –Public libraries were the fourth most popular reason for people to visit a UK council’s website, 25.7million people visited their library website last year. Allowing library users to manage their accounts online and providing a forum for customers to leave feedback, share recommendations and get information quickly and easily will enhance engagement with customers.

+ Mobile  – 62 million smart phones will be in use by 2015 and sales of tablets are expected to double in 2013. Smartphones enable libraries to extend their online presence, allowing customers to reserve a book, browse the library catalogue and even scan barcodes on books in shops to see which of their local libraries has the titles in stock.

+ Help customers to help themselves –There are many transactions library users can carry out themselves via kiosks and self-service machines. Activities include browsing catalogues, reserving, issuing and returning books.

+ Diversification –libraries need to think about new ways of generating income. This could be as simple as installing Chip & PIN terminals in libraries to collect the estimated £400,000 worth of fines issued annually in the UK, or allowing customers to pay for library services via a council’s website.

+ Back office technology - the use of technology to streamline back office functions is one of the simplest ways to improve efficiency. Joint smartcards for library and other council services, staff using mobile technology such as tablets, systems integration and cloud technology are all examples of joining the dots to reap the benefits.

FIND THE CAPITA WHITE PAPER HERE and SEE VIDEO FEATURE ON NEW BIRMINGHAM LIBRARY HERE and UK RESEARCHERS BREAKTHROUGH ON HOW WE READ - HERE

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

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