Hertfordshire Libraries has completed the launch of a modern wireless printing service across all 44 of its branches using netloan Wi-Fi print. Jean Holmes, Head of Libraries, and Emma Ryder, Business Systems Development Officer, talked to Lorensbergs about how the project progresses their Inspiring Libraries strategy while meeting widespread customer need.
Strategic background to wireless printing launch
Hertfordshire Libraries’ service development is underpinned by its ‘Inspiring Libraries’ strategy. An important strand of the strategy is that their technology must be innovative and responsive to customer need. By ensuring library services are progressively becoming more digitally enabled, this guides the library authority’s development plans and investment in services.
For many libraries, digital enablement goes hand in hand with providing self-service solutions, facilitating users to help themselves through technology. This was a key objective for Herts Libraries and also met the increasing expectations by customers to have the self-service payment solutions in place when using library services.
“We’re looking at using technology to support self-service wherever possible”, explains Jean. “It not only fulfils our central strategy, it’s what our customers are looking for and expect their local library to provide.”
“Wireless printing is seen as the next evolution for our services,” comments Emma. “Customers have already been able to use PCs and pay for their print jobs without intervention from staff. The next step is bringing in their own devices and using these to print.”
Building on existing self-service investments
The roll out of the wireless printing service builds on existing self-service infrastructure investment including over 90 RFID kiosks from bibliotheca. Herts libraries had already begun a project to enable self-service payment and release of print jobs from library computers on the multi-purpose kiosks. This was enabled through netloan kiosk+ software which also supported booking of library PCs and payment for additional chargeable hours from the kiosks.
“The kiosks have been very well received by customers,” says Emma.
“Even many of our less confident customers, once they’ve been shown how to do it, they just want to get on and continue using the self-service,” adds Jean. “It’s easy and it means they don’t need to wait in line for staff to finish dealing with other enquiries as they can release their own print jobs.”
Customers are enjoying using the kiosks with library staff having already guided less confident users so that everyone felt comfortable using them. The new netloan functions had involved getting a new wave of customers up to speed, especially those who were using the libraries predominantly for computer access.
Jean says: “When it comes to digital competence and expectation, we have a wide spectrum of users with different support needs. Some users prefer contact with our staff when using services such as paying for print. Others have been bemused at times by the need to pay for services via staff. They would expect a more modern solution to be in place. This is especially true when it comes to using their own devices for printing and Lorensbergs’ customer-release solution on the kiosk is ideal.”
Working in partnership to meet customer expectations
Library users were frequently asking staff for the opportunity to print wirelessly. Lorensbergs was already beginning to develop the netloan Wi-Fi print product, and engaged the Herts team in a focus group to establish their exact requirements. Together they looked at how they would structure a wireless printing service to meet customer needs in their libraries. They also explored what was needed to make it technically viable with their system set up.
Lorensbergs continued to develop netloan Wi-Fi print to enable printing from smartphones, tablets and laptops, for Apple, Android and Windows devices. It supported printing of all document types.
The Herts team attended a demo to view the prototype service and had a very positive reaction to what they witnessed: “It was everything that we wanted it to be, and we were keen to introduce it as a new service to our customers,” says Jean.
Service goes live!
A pilot of the service was launched at the main Welwyn Garden City library branch. The Lorensbergs engineers supported Serco (Herts’ IT provider) with the server-level installation covering all branch libraries, and they then worked with Herts’ technical team to prepare the kiosks to receive Wi-Fi print integration. After this they were confident to roll out two more sites a day, upgrading the kiosks.
Training was provided by Lorensbergs engineers at the installation stage. Their approach is to ‘train the trainer’ to enable staff to pass on their know-how as the roll out progresses. Training is comprehensive and covers system configuration aspects, administrative tools and workflows, and end user support. A staff manual and training guide is provided along with marketing materials to publicise the service to customers.
“The initial training was brilliant – very good and thorough.” says Emma. “We were able to pick and choose what was most useful in order to tailor the training as we cascaded it down. The training at each branch went very smoothly, with useful supporting materials including manuals and handy crib sheets.”
The way the training was passed on to staff was very important and the Herts library team continue to reinforce and build on this knowledge while awareness and interest in the service increases. “Staff need to be confident in advocating the service to customers and encouraging them to print wirelessly.”
The crib sheets were particularly effective in training staff and giving pointers to customers. Supplied by Lorensbergs, they were customised to reflect Herts branding. “The promotional posters also notified customers that the new service was ‘coming soon’ and would make it possible for them to print from their smartphones, tablets and laptops,” adds Jean.
The phased roll out and launch ensured that only each library’s customers would hear about the new service as it was becoming available. This avoided customers at other branches from being left in suspense before the service went live.
An exciting new service for customers
“Launching Wi-Fi print has been similar to when we first introduced our kiosks,” says Emma. “Customers would come in and many would automatically approach a member of staff to get their books scanned and stamped until they’d been shown the kiosks. It’s the same with printing, staff will inform customers about the wireless service, and next time they come in, it will be second nature to them. It will become the norm with customers already sharing their experience of using the service with family and friends.”
Here is some of the feedback provided by Herts customers and staff:
“Brilliant printing service, very easy to set up, staff very helpful.”
“The customer wasn’t confident using a PC to print an application form but was very pleased with how easy it was to print from her iPhone using the instructions and will use it again.”
“Printing from android for the first time, working OK, no problems.”
“It’s very convenient to use, excellent service.”
The netloan Wi-Fi print service enables customers to set up their devices to send print jobs to library printers using both Apple and Android native printing technologies.
“Our Apple device customers are delighted with the service outperforming their expectations. The process for making their first print is a joy to behold!” says Jean. “Staff have been learning the one-off steps to get users printing from Android and Windows devices and are gaining confidence in helping these customers, with more variation in the models of device to support.”
Advancing digital enablement
“So many people came into our branches looking for this service. Now we’ve launched Wi-Fi print we’re able to broaden the library’s appeal. It’s great that we’re providing something that customers are definitely going to use and to be able to meet or exceed their expectations with it,” says Jean.
Emma adds: “When customers come to release their print jobs, everything is available there on the kiosk screen. The instructions and steps are very clear and staff and customers are finding them easy to follow.”
“Wi-Fi print has benefited our environment. We’re looking to reinforce our self-service option and really be able to deliver to customers what they’re expecting us to provide in being digitally enabled libraries,” concludes Jean.
With thanks to the team at Hertfordshire Libraries for participating in this case study.
For further information and a datasheet on Wi-Fi print, please contact your netloan account manager: call 01992 415505 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.