05 October 2022
Developing a Single Digital Presence for public libraries: our journey so far
Since our previous update in May, things have moved forward at pace on our project to develop a new platform for UK public libraries. A unified, national branded space online that will celebrate what people love most about libraries and enable local libraries to raise awareness of what they offer and share their content more widely online.
It feels especially appropriate to provide an update on the project in Libraries Week, during which many libraries across the country will be thinking about how they best serve their communities through uncertain times. It seems all the more relevant to be thinking about how we can ensure the new platform meets the needs of local libraries and the people they serve.
Work well underway
We now have a dedicated product team whose job it is to turn the platform it into a reality. Kicking off in early September, they have already made considerable progress towards defining what an early version of the platform will look like.
We say ‘early version’ because this project is going to be an example of agile product development. This means that rather than coming up with an answer and building the solution – which cuts off opportunities to learn and adapt our approach – the team will build in iterative stages. We will design things that look real, test them with people, and aim to come away with insights that help us improve the user experience. Then we will follow the same process the next week. And so on.
This process is anchored in the notion that in order to solve real problems – be they for library staff, existing users or those who aren’t currently using libraries – we will get the best idea of what we need to build by showing people true-to-life examples and getting their real-time feedback.
Building in this way is a bold step for us. While agile product development underpins the construction of most of the apps and digital products you use on a day-to-day basis, they tend to be created by relatively young start-ups, built from the ground up to operate that way.
Building in collaboration
Building from the ground up is a key part of our approach for this project. That is why, throughout its design and development, we will be talking to library staff and users, as well as people who have rarely, if ever, set foot inside a library.
Our early explorations and discussions with public library staff have shown us that to build a truly national platform that supports loans and events will take considerable time. And while these services are still on the horizon, we’re now focusing on what we can deliver for the sector earlier, while continuing to learn what we need to do to build a more all-encompassing platform further down the road.
Of course, a project of this nature has many other moving parts. Over the last nine months, we have been working with experienced creative agency FCB Inferno to undertake in-depth research with libraries and audiences to develop the platform’s new name and look. We’ll be sharing this very soon, following testing of the final designs.
In addition, we’re holding regular show-and-tells with key colleagues here at the British Library and within the library sector. We’re also going to be starting monthly open drop-in sessions for sector stakeholders to attend from November.
Interested in hearing more? We’re sending out a regular email containing updates on the project for library staff. If you would like to receive it, please email us at SingleDigitalPresence@bl.uk.
Head of Delivery, LibraryOn