We caught up with Neil Wishart, CEO of leading library technology provider, Solus, and Liz McGettigan, President of the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals Scotland (CILIPs) and former Head of Libraries at City of Edinburgh Council, about the role of technology in public libraries and Solus’ new hand-held device which supports more efficient collection management.
Thanks for speaking with us! Solus has embraced the benefits that technology can offer to public libraries. What impact do you feel technology plays on the patron experience?
Neil: That’s a very broad question and possibly too broad to answer succinctly in this article. The short answer is that the user experience can be enhanced in many ways and a lot can be learned from the way retailers and eContent providers are serving their customers, physically and digitally.
For the past two years now, Solus has been focused on Digital Discovery: using patron or library devices to discover and access the huge range of digital content that libraries offer their patrons. While in the main the content is good, access is challenging and the marketing of eContent has not driven the kind of uptake that it should have for libraries.
When I was a child my parents took me to the library every other week. But there were only four television channels, the internet hadn’t been invented and you couldn’t access everything you could imagine you’d ever want from a device in the palm of your hand. Libraries have a challenge and they have to start thinking how would Netflix deliver eContent and how would Apple serve a customer in store.
What new innovations do you regard as having the biggest impact on how librarians manage collections?
Liz: The pride of any library is its collections, and collection management is often the single largest function in many libraries. It is so important to have an effective and efficient management of digital and physical material at all stages of the content life cycle. However managing collections, finding and weeding is probably one of the most labour-intensive yet important tasks library staff have to undertake and nowadays it’s crucial that we transform that process and use that valuable staff time more wisely to interact with customers.
I know from my own experience that taking the drudgery out of collection management is high on the list of all library staff and therefore the hand-held, portable tool delivering on that is a real game-changer!
The time and effort involved in downloading printed lists, finding items, marking up lists, then manually updating the LMS (ILS) is now a thing of the past. To have a light, portable, hand-held device that enables quick and easy weeding & inventory then writes data automatically back to LMS as items are found, is something library staff across the world have dreamed of for as long as I can remember.
Can you tell us a little bit about the new Solus hand-held device?
Neil: Without giving away trade secrets before the official launch, the exciting new Staff handheld device integrates our Staff App and collectionHQ’s task lists. Then it pretty much automates everything that the Librarian would need to do from a Customer Service and Collection Management perspective.
The hardware piece combines components that would formerly have been cobbled together and somehow linked (using wires, on a WiFi network, or best case using Bluetooth) and condenses this into a robust but light and user friendly staff device.
The Staff device & App will make staff truly mobile; in the Library, outside the Library, in a pop-up or mobile library and even for the home library services. Think of the Apple Geniuses who can use a device that provides the ability to answer customer questions; respond to requests for help; search, serve and even process a sale from anywhere in the store – not behind a desk. We’re bringing the Apple Genius concept into the Library to make it possible for Librarians to deliver that high end retail service experience.
Sounds great! What are the benefits of using the hand-held device integrated with collectionHQ both for library employees and patrons?
Neil: Well from the patron perspective, that’s easy to answer. The librarian can help the patron and carry out transactions for the user, anywhere in the library and beyond. It’s a quicker, more efficient customer service experience, that will put a smile on the face of library users. It will connect the Librarian and the customer and it’s also not something they’d expect to see in a library, this will help leverage a positive perception of service quality.
In terms of collectionHQ and more specifically for librarians using collectionHQ, it will significantly speed up the process of accessing and actioning collectionHQ task lists. It will then fully automate the process of getting the completed actions back into the ILS/LMS. It will minimise the time and effort in using collectionHQ and provide a double whammy of efficiency. And actually, the patron will benefit. Not only will the management of the collection be better, but staff will spend less time weeding and will have more time to spend face-to-face with customers – using this exciting new customer service device of course!
We have watched the uptake of the collectionHQ product with interest and we’ve known the team at collectionHQ now for several years. So when the opportunity came to work with Ian Downie, Scott Crawford and the team at collectionHQ, it was an exciting one that we jumped on. This project marries best in breed hardware with an existing and already highly successful collection management software solution!
Solus and collectionHQ will launch the new integration at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, IL this summer. Find out more here http://test-site.chqdev.net/event/ala-2017/.