As we reflect on the past year working with and supporting our library customers, the annual netloan user groups stand out as a particular highlight. This autumn they took place at Canning Town Library (Newham Libraries), Halifax Central Library (Calderdale Libraries), M Shed in Bristol, and Johnstone Town Hall (Renfrewshire Libraries).
The discussions at these important events change each year to reflect developments in the technology landscape, together with the changing needs of library users. We look at how libraries are adopting new models of working and changes in service delivery to meet these needs and leverage new technologies. The main focus remains on the People’s Network of public access computers. At the groups we explore how netloan PC booking and print management software is being used and developed in order to make the most of this vital public infrastructure.
One of the topics we explored this year covered the shift to self-service. We looked at how staff are being helped to focus on transformational work, providing greater help to those that need it most, while self-service technologies support the more transactional elements. Caroline Rae from Newham Libraries, our host for London/South East this year, gave an excellent presentation on how this was being achieved at their new Canning Town library branch. Combined with a library tour, it was useful to see how customers were being supported with self-service options for PCs, printing and book issues, while staff were using laptops and tablets, sometimes in separate rooms away from the main floor of the library, to assist those customers requiring 1:1 support. The full case study is available here.
Other insightful presentations at this year’s groups were provided by Gloucestershire Libraries and Renfrewshire Libraries. Rebecca Dazeley presented on Gloucestershire's Growth Hubs and Innovation Labs (slides are available here) which equip local businesses with some highly effective resources and specialist support. Gloucestershire’s 31 libraries are now Tier 3 Growth Hubs which offer referrals for businesses to expert growth targeted sessions. They provide business customers with informal meeting and work space, book stock and electronic resources. The new Innovation Labs provide these customers with experience of using a wide variety of digital equipment for opportunities to innovate, for example, a 3D printer is used by businesses to create prototypes. VR headsets have been used in dementia support training. Netloan has provided a way to manage the booking and use of the equipment. The Growth Hubs and Labs have also been the topic of a recent Libraries Taskforce blog.
Annette Casci at Renfrewshire Libraries presented on their Digiteers initiative (slides available here which include a video discussing their work further). Renfrewshire’s Digiteers is an inspiring example of the impressive work being undertaken by libraries in providing critical digital support to jobseekers and other users. We’ll be looking further at how libraries are delivering assisted digital services in the coming months when we report back on our annual customer survey which explores this topic.
Above: London and SE User Group at Canning Town Library; Northern and Midlands User Group at Halifax Central Library
Above: Wales and South West User Group at M Shed; Scotland User Group at Johnstone Town Hall
We’re very grateful to our netloan customers for taking the time and effort to attend the groups each year (and to contribute some great presentations!), especially when staff cover and travel budgets are often difficult to find. Attendance was strong across the four groups: we were delighted to welcome a total of 77 customers representing 57 library authorities. Feedback was very positive – everyone found the groups useful, with 82% finding them ‘very useful’. This is wonderful to hear, making the time and resources to organise the groups totally well spent. Here’s a few comments we’ve received back from attendees:
“Helpful and informative, very topical updates”
“Good information connecting to changing IT landscapes”
“Covers the topics required. Plenty of scope for questions”
“My first time, learnt a lot!”
“Very informative and great for networking”
“Very full programme – good technical updates”
Thanks to everyone who attended, not least to our hosts at Newham, Renfreshire and Calderdale. At Calderdale we also received an amazing tour of the new Halifax Central Library – see the photo of the group in front of the church window above – a wonderful setting for this year’s Northern and Midlands group.
Looking ahead now to Christmas and the New Year, we wish you a joyous festive season and hope you get the chance to spend some well-earned time with family and friends – to rest and relax before we begin an exciting new year with the opportunities and challenges it may bring.