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The culture of disruptive innovation enabled Internet giants to concentrate a great deal of economic power, marginalising producers, artists and suppliers. How can the combined skills and perspectives of service designers and social innovators enable existing organisations like public libraries to provide a great service and successfully compete with giants like Amazon?


“In the financial year 2016 to 2017, libraries in England received
more visits than the Premier League football games, A&E
services, and the cinema combined.”


We lack good data on how
libraries are used and the
changes they’ve been

Research for the UK Government’s
Libraries Taskforce, published 2018

...gaining more information about
the people who use the library can
only be useful. Having something
to backup figures, to backup any
kind of funding application, is also
incredibly useful.

Community Library Director

From our research we understood that librarians need support to respond to the needs of today library’s users and that libraries hold valuable information not only on their bookshelves or computer memory disks; librarians and the library visitors are themselves holders of information that is daily created within the library when library visitors interact with librarians, with the building and physical objects within the library, and with other library visitors. Some of this data is tangible – e.g. numbers of books borrowed, sometimes harnessed digitally, but some of the data is intangible – people’s moods, attitudes, and interests. How can we as designers enable librarians to harness this data so they can use it to improve their services?

literature reviews, interviews, and autoethnography

Libraries are currently losing out
because they are not collecting
information on visitors

insight #1

Library visitors data is a resource
generated within the library

ready to be harnessed

insight #2

Digital technology is essential to the
future of libraries

insight #3

prototyping, service blueprinting, and testing

insight #1

The service must be accessible and
user friendly to suit full-time and
volunteer staff

Data needs to be simple

and digestible to be useful

insight #2

Community support line would enable
library teams fully embrace the new
tools and build confidence

insight #3

proposed service

digital toolkit

A simple digital toolkit
for library teams to
learn more about their
library visitors and
improve services based
on data and insight

The Wise One. Final.png
Hope Page. Final.png

This toolkit proposes three activities that will enable librarians and library staff to extract already existing information (from library’s social media pages or online catalogues) or to collect new information (through observation or discussions) about the visitors’ attitudes and experiences. The research suggested that library visitors are willing to give information to librarians if they weere convinced that the information is truly useful to the library and the wider community and if it was collected in a friendly way.

“I would be very happy to share that, of course, in whatever format, really […] the question for me is really how do you ask these questions […] I'm well aware that it's all just going to be registered somewhere in some pie chart. […] And so I'm not too excited by that. […] it needs to be based around something that makes
sense to people, and that way you know if you feel like there's a mutual benefit in sharing the information”.

Library visitor

the digital guru

Learn how to use digital tools such as email, social media pages and data visualisation tools to better understand and communicate with your library visitors. After applying some of these techniques and learning new tips you will be able to engage with your visitors more
than before.

This toolkit will help librarians and library staff to change the perception of their role and the functions and role of the library in the community. All data collection methods will be aligned to ethical standards and would be made available to the public as knowledge produced and owned by the public (not the library solely) and used for the greater good of the public.

This research project was realised as part of the Masters of Design at Ravensbourne University London in April - June 2020 by Zarida Zaman

(Social Innovator) and Yinging Li, Hansi Gordon,

and Iulia Tvigun (Service Designers). All rights are reserved. Please reference the project accordingly,

if you wish to share it or use it in your own research. 

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