27th March 2018

Libraries need to evolve to bridge the gap between digital and physical experiences, reveals UTS and Civica research 

  • Almost 90 percent of library users think online library services are important, yet only 61 percent are satisfied with the online experience
  • Survey respondents across three global regions consistently identify online library interfaces as difficult to use and navigate
  • Improving the user experience is a top priority for libraries looking to improve online services

Australia, Singapore & UK 26 February 2018 – Bridging the gap between online and physical experiences is a key challenge for libraries, reveals the latest Civica Changing LandscapeTM Report: the intrinsic value of libraries as public spaces – Physical-digital, communicating the new normal. The report was developed by the Institute for Public Policy and Governance, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Civica, a market leader in business-critical software, digital solutions and managed services for organisations around the world helping transform the way they work.

While 85 percent of the users are happy with the physical experience, only 61 percent are satisfied with the online offerings; there are still opportunities for online services to improve to meet users’ expectations. The latest report is the second edition of a series that first started in 2016. It focusses on the state of library service delivery whilst exploring users’ experiences with libraries and their perceptions of physical and digital spaces. 

Library customers seek better online user experience  

Approximately 600 library users in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom were surveyed for this report. Respondents indicated that usability (86 percent), free availability (75 percent) and device compatibility (63 percent) were the most valued features of a library website. Many also suggested that libraries need to offer a more user-friendly online experience, one that is comparable to commercial services, and keeps up with technological change. 

According to Sophi Bruce, lead researcher for this project at the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at UTS, the research strongly reaffirms that library customers value both physical and online library spaces and that there are many opportunities in the online environment.

“The expectations of library customers are largely being met when visiting the physical library space, but this is not always the case when interacting in the online library space,” she said.

“The research reveals that there are many factors causing this, including difficulties with navigating library website platforms, not being able to access content from different devices, and the abilities of some library staff to properly understand the technology and promote it to their members. This report offers insights from library customers themselves that may help bridge the gap between the delivery of physical and online services,” she added. 

Key barriers to embracing digital change

Shifting user attitudes, technology advancements, and limited resources are pushing libraries to invest in digital services. However, the report revealed that these very factors are also acting as barriers to change as libraries are finding it difficult to navigate through them.

Digitally literate customers are expecting libraries to match the interfaces of commercial platforms; yet some library staff have reported to be lacking confidence when it comes to digital change.

Furthermore, the lack of a robust internet infrastructure specifically in Australia hinders the delivery of effective online services in that geography. As such, the onus is on libraries to look for innovative solutions.

Collaboration key to improving library services

Librarians surveyed as part of the research have indicated that consortia arrangements and partnerships with vendors could help them remain relevant in a fast-moving digital space. Given the increasingly hybrid nature of library services, libraries need to be equipped physically and digitally.

According to Richard Fiddis, Managing Director at Civica International, partnerships with technology vendors is the key to remaining relevant in this digital-first world whilst delivering innovative and high level services.

“An example of this is the partnership we have with the Great Southern Consortium in Western Australia, where nine councils have collaborated to use Spydus, Civica’s integrated library management system that provides an improved user experience for both customers and library staff,” he said.

Civica, which currently supports over 2,000 library customers globally, unveiled the findings of the Changing LandscapeTM Report: the intrinsic value of libraries as public spaces – Physical-digital, communicating the new normal report during the Civica Libraries Annual Technology Roadshow 2018. The Annual Technology Roadshow 2018, which took place across five cities and two countries in five days, is a part of Civica’s commitment to thought leadership in the library community. Almost 250 senior library management decision makers from New Zealand and Australia attended sessions in Wellington, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Guest speakers included creator and editor of Library Technology Guides Marshall Breeding (USA), leading social researchers Professor Roberta Ryan, Sophi Bruce, and local library guests.

About the UTS Institute for Public Policy and Governance 

The Institute for Public Policy and Governance (IPPG) at the University of Technology Sydney is a leading group of researchers and practitioners in the areas of public administration and policy, social research, stakeholder engagement, and leadership. IPPG undertakes applied social and behavioural and academic research, policy advisory, graduate education and professional development training. The IPPG team works closely and maintains extensive professional networks within the university and with governments; industry; not-for-profit and community based organisations across Australia and internationally. The UTS Centre for Local Government is part of the IPPG.