Coventry Libraries and Information Service Case Study: Moving from V-smart to Spark

Coventry Libraries and Information Service has recently gone live with Axiell Spark, Axiell’s browser-based library management system (LMS), and Arena, Axiell’s discovery tool, following a migration from Axiell’s V-smart LMS in 2023.

Migrating systems can be one of the most daunting projects that a local authority can undertake, so we sat down with Dave Lloyd, Service Development Manager at Coventry Libraries to hear his thoughts on the project and his advice for other library services who are contemplating moving to Axiell Spark and Arena. Coventry was also selected as UK City of Culture in 2021, with the library central to activities within the city. All in all, it’s been a busy couple of years for Dave and his team.

A bit of background to the project

Coventry Libraries is made up of 17 libraries, with 100 staff serving 80,000 library members. Per year, the library service sees around 1,000,000 transactions.

The V-smart product set and its customer base, Coventry included, joined the Axiell family following Axiell’s acquisition of Infor Library Division in 2022. In 2023, Coventry moved from V-smart to Spark, following a competitive tender process.

Coventry went live with Spark and Arena in March 2023. Here’s what Dave had to say about the project.

What were your aims when migrating to Spark?

The aim of the project was to introduce a new library management system while minimising disruption to library users. A key priority for Coventry Libraries was to enhance the user experience via the website and SOLUS App.

Has the project been a success?

Generally, it’s been a very positive experience for Coventry libraries. I don’t think any library service looks forward to doing an LMS migration. It’s probably the biggest ICT project that we do and probably one of the biggest projects [of any kind] that we do. We appreciate that we could get some extra functionality and services, which is great, but it’s still basically a year-long project which involves every single member of library staff, including volunteers and community led libraries.

The biggest hurdle was allocating of the correct resources at the right time to the project.

However, we’ve pretty much kept to the project plan, within a couple of weeks of where we originally designed it to be.

How has the rollout to staff been?

One of the outcomes of COVID was that a lot of staff became more used to training online. Training online has a number of benefits in that it provides staff with a greater level of flexibility in when they undertake training and removes time-costly travel to physical training events.

We were able to allocate some of our own staff to creating training resources, so we shot a huge number of short videos, which worked well with the resources that Axiell provided and the recordings of the training sessions that Axiell ran. People could actually see the system in practice.

The Arena training was especially good. Ben at Axiell was a really good trainer, really in touch with what we were trying to achieve and what we were really asking to see.

We knew a lot of Axiell staff members because they worked for Infor previously. These were members of staff who we were used to working with and a major benefit was they had knowledge of our existing system because they had run the V-smart system for us.

What is your advice to other library services who are looking to migrate to Axiell Spark and Arena?

The biggest thing that would have been good to look at is what tasks we could have undertaken before we migrated the library system to maximize benefits. In particular, what we could have done to the databases to make sure that we got as much done in our previous system before we migrated data, to make sure it was as up to date as possible.

How are your staff and public users finding Axiell Spark and Axiell Arena?

The Library staff have definitely taken to the new system very well. They have found the whole system, in terms of using Spark, quite logical and intuitive.

We have had lots of positive feedback from library users. You will always get some who don’t like change, but we have received lots of positive feedback about the events calendar, and I think that’s something that really shows in our online catalogue, because it’s new and therefore we’re directing lots of people to it.

Coventry was selected as UK City of Culture in 2021 – how has that fed into the library service’s strategy?

We did two big projects, one was about reading, which is very natural for a library service. The second project was called Digital Spaces, which is about libraries as a new home for digital cultural experiences for those who can’t experience them elsewhere, and for which we got nominated for the Arts Council’s Digital Culture Network Awards.

For this project, we had a programme of virtual reality sessions in our libraries. We focused very much on people coming in and consuming virtual reality, whereas the next stage will be people actually creating their own virtual reality experiences.

Read more about Coventry Libraries’ Digital Spaces project

How will Spark and Arena support your digital programming and events?

We’re still very much involved in some of the City of Culture activities but a lot of the events that we do, we do every week. So, you know, story times, rhyme times, readers groups and stuff like that. Spark and Arena will help us with the promotion of these events. Previously, we put events up on the website. Now we’ve actually got an events calendar, which is far more searchable for members to the public.

What are your next steps?

We will continue work on the online catalogue and the app and especially the events calendar. The other part of it is going to be using data for decision making. We are starting to just look at the settings, configuration, ongoing training and reports via the stock management hub.

Thanks to Dave for his time.

Find out more about Axiell Spark

Spark is a simple and intuitive cloud-based library management system for professional library staff, team members and volunteers.

Find out more


Get the latest news in your mailbox with our newsletter

Select your areas of interest: