Librarians and the local governments need to think about what could ensure their relevance for the future. For this, library representatives from around the world have gathered in United Kingdom for the Global Excellence Tour 2017 to discuss the future of libraries and we’ve got the insights.
We talked with Liz McGettigan, one of the organizers of Global Excellence Tour 2017 who shared with us the main conclusions and some important takeaways.
1. You recently organised the Global Excellence Tour 2017. What was the event’s mission and how has the need for a global perspective appeared?
What fabulously rich content exists in libraries across the globe! Just imagine a future, single connected global collection open to all and that is where the idea of the tour began. The mission of the Global Excellence Tour was to showcase the work of a new community of leaders, those who are beginning to do and think in this way, those who are transforming library services digitally on national, regional and state scales.
These could be the first steps towards a vision of a single connected, rich and accessible global library collection.
I wanted to give colleagues an opportunity to hear global speakers describing how the library sector could stay relevant by responding more effectively to the changes and upheavals caused by digital technologies. I wanted a voice for those who are working together to make our fabulous rich cultural heritage and collections accessible on national and state levels. It’s too easy to be insular so I wanted to know who was ahead of the game globally.
There is a need for standardisation and rationalisation of national and local digital library service delivery. I wanted to identify common processes, industry best practice, open standards, and common components.
I wanted colleagues to hear how this has transformed the library user experience, while still retaining local autonomy and identity for each local library service. Also, to hear how they have also negotiated state wide e-content deals driving a high-quality user experience and access in tandem with ensuring efficiencies and significant discounting in the purchase of content.
Library Global Excellence Tour 2017
For me, there were two elements of the idea for the Global Excellence Tour; frustration and jealousy!
The first was frustration at our failure to capitalize on the People’s Network, which was the UK government’s only IT project ever brought in on time and within budget. 17 years ago, there was a £100 million The People’s Network programme to support the development of ICT learning in public libraries through the provision of ICT equipment and internet connections.
To say that this was, indeed is, the most exciting and inspirational report on public libraries that I have read in my entire career is not an overstatement. It should be reprinted and made compulsory reading for librarians, local decision makers and politicians.
New library: The People’s Network had the potential to take Britain’s public libraries forward as transformed and vibrant centres of learning and communication and as connected citizen centres for the people to access a networked Britain. It also painted a fabulous vision of a content-rich national digital platform.
Yes, we put free internet access into every library but we failed to build a network of access to the fabulously rich resources and content of all those libraries – we could have made Google green with envy! So yes, frustration at suggested timescales for a single digital presence!
Second – jealousy! Having been fortunate enough to have seen what our colleagues in Australia and the US are doing, how they are building and investing in libraries and librarians made me want to show policymakers and the government here just how far behind we are falling.
2. At the event, you discussed a new vision for public libraries that would strengthen communities and create the kind of communities where people thrive. Can you elaborate more on your vision?
As the “smart city” and “big data” agenda grows it will be more and more important for citizens to understand the issues, recognise the importance of privacy and to become “smart Citizens”. I believe the potential of well-funded libraries to transform and deliver on citizens’ and students’ digital skills and leadership is tremendous. I’d like to see councils and government realigning what they deliver and investing in libraries to produce the smart citizens they know they must have for future smart cities. Many libraries are already acting as technology petting centres and I’d like to see mainstreamed and well-funded libraries offering accredited Smart Citizen certification.
Many libraries are already acting as technology petting centres and I’d like to see mainstreamed and well-funded libraries offering accredited Smart Citizen certification.
In Aarhus, Denmark, for example, the well-funded public libraries double as “citizens’ services centres” where locals can register a change of address or apply for a pension. Why not here too?
I wanted my colleagues to be excited about a new and engaging Digital Library Discovery platform to help libraries compete with Amazon. A report titled was produced and this has now evolved into Project LUCI which is an innovative development collaboration between three Australian States (Queensland, Victoria & South Australia).
Forget whatever preconceptions you have of public libraries and imagine what a national partnership network of library/tech/skill centres could deliver. We have publicly owned buildings and spaces across the country. Potentially a fabulous, statutory network of places across the country entirely devoted to our literacy, tech skills, to our social, educational, health and cultural wellbeing.
Places where our children and teens are safe and where lonely and elderly people are welcomed. Places you can trust, that are safe, free to use and open evenings and weekends too! Just what could they deliver and change if supported and developed well?
The Library Experience
If libraries are to thrive in this new world they must play an active role in shaping their future and redesigning the relevant “next” Library – The 21st century experience library. They must become learning and digital hubs and one-stop destinations to test drive and learn about the latest technology, equalising access and skills around the new and fast developing technologies from coding, circuit making, self-publishing to augmented reality, 5d digital storage, I- beacon /NFC technologies, solar powering cells and artificial intelligence.
They must become experiential, entrepreneurial, experimental spaces where access to technology enhances opportunities to learn, work and create. Enablers of virtual reality experiences of life, spaces, learning and people across the world. The library will let you experience inside the Vatican, NYPL, the Taj Mahal and check out the special collection in the Moscow Library.
As we once made learning and literacy accessible with books we must do the same for all new literacies. Who if not the Public Library?
3. Given the fact that you gathered keynote speakers from all over the world, what are the most important differences that you’ve noticed across countries? Who’s ahead of the game across the world?
We live in times of massive disruption but for me never more exciting or fascinating! The world of libraries and information has changed hugely over the last decade and is continuing to be disrupted and develop at a very fast pace into something possibly quite unrecognisable.
Clearly, the private sector sees potential and opportunities as Amazon and Google make strides into the physical world with opening stores across the world.
Sadly, at one time Australia and the US looked to us in the UK for leadership in libraries. I feel that has shifted and I see the naturally exuberant, enthusiastic and passionate Aussies streaking ahead. Innovations in design, services approach, funding and investment in libraries is strong in Australia.
4. Finally, do you have some key takeaways to share with our readers?
Build on the technological connectedness in your community – interactive, collaborative.
Build on the people connectedness in your community by creating relationships, real partnerships and mutual understanding.
Build beautiful connecting spaces for people to learn, share and participate spaces to come together and work together.
Build on the trust our communities still have in libraries.
Make a plan, then find the money!
Hope you have enjoyed our talk with Liz McGettigan, one of the organizers of Global Excellence Tour 2017. If you want to find out more about the topics discussed at the event, visit libraryexcellence.com and there you can download all the presentation. Also, you can get in touch with Liz on Linkedin or Twitter.
We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world! Until then, you can find Princh on Facebook and Twitter.