Towards the end of last year, we published the findings of research into the Library of the Future and one thing that was very apparent was that the public are looking to libraries to innovate.
In a recent blog post for CILIP, Axiell customer and LLC member with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Kate Pitman, spoke of how the Idea Store concept has helped their service adapt to the harsh seas faced by the public sector in the 21st Century.
In 1999, this innovation began as the library services and adult and community education services came to together to create the first Idea Store.
With additional services now offered; including health, digital learning and employability (among others); Idea Stores achieved a rating of ‘good’ or ‘very good’ from 92% of people in last year’s CIPFA Public Library User Survey.
Indeed, in our research, we found that 89% of people agree that libraries are an important part of the community and perhaps found further evidence for the continued success of the Idea Store concept.
Our research showed the public’s belief that libraries need to become “a place where learning is initiated, explored and shared” and it is clear that Idea Stores have achieved this by integrating learning services.
Research by Go On UK shows a great digital divide in the UK, with a fifth of adults having never been online – a figure which is even higher for those over 55.
Yet, our research shows that 36% of those over 55 years are still keen to see their public library offer ICT training and 67% of adults are interested in seeing at least one digital element, from online community pages to ebook borrowing introduced.
Kate highlighted ICT as a key area of development – important for library staff as well as the community – and pointed out that being a member of the London Libraries Consortium (LLC) has played a big role in developing this within their service.
“Joining the London Libraries Consortium (LLC) in 2007 was a good move. We’ve benefited greatly from shared procurement including stock, transport and our LMS. Technology has underpinned improvements in services to the LLC’s shared population of 4 million residents. At the same time we’re keenly aware of what more we could be doing , especially for an integrated library and learning service where ICT is the platform for the delivery of so much.”
Rebranding the Library
What Idea Stores represent is a rebranding of the public library or evidence that libraries must become more. Kate points to the library building itself as a ‘third place’:
“The third place is about neutrality, equality, social inclusion, making a home from home and bringing the community together – something particularly important in an inner city environment that can often be alienating.”
What is also necessary is to create a place where people not only need but also want to be.
For Tower Hamlets, this meant a complete redesign of what a library should look like. Moving away from a institutional feel to a modern, open experience and a ‘retail approach’.
But what else do the public want to see in their libraries?
Listening to the Community
Our research shows a clear appetite for innovation and for the expansion of the library service, and Idea Stores are further proof of what can be achieved when the needs of the community are listened to and put into action.
“Idea Stores were innovative from the start. The power of the original vision has proved adaptable and allowed us to respond to changing times. We have never taken our customers for granted: we began with the biggest ever library consultation and have been listening to local people ever since. We are proud to be a service that people choose to use.”
You can read Kate’s full post here.
Or click here for more results from our Library of the Future report, including a handy infographic.