Bibliotheca is shortlisted in the Customer Project of the Year category at the V3 Technology Awards 2015.
The company has been nominated for the work carried out with Peterborough City Council to improve library access amid budget cuts through the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to allow people to use libraries beyond opening hours.
Ahead of the awards, V3 caught up with Darren Ratcliffe, Bibliotheca's UK managing director, to hear more about the company's project with the council and its plans and insights for 2016.
What has Bibliotheca focused on this year?
Darren Ratcliffe: With the continued compromising position that many libraries find themselves in today, over the last year we have focused on the development of our products and services to match the changing needs of libraries.
We are passionate about assisting libraries to embrace transformation such that reduced budgets do not have to be synonymous with reduced opening hours, reduced access or a decline in perceived service.
We are committed to the principle that technology and innovation are key to the future of library services to enable longer opening hours, increased membership and relevant services for the evolving needs of the communities they serve.
Tell us more about a major project you have worked on.
One of our most significant projects in the UK was with Peterborough City Council. When faced with challenging expenditure cuts, the council was driven to find a library model for the future where it would not have to compromise on service access and choice.
Following public consultation, the council decided to implement our open+ solution throughout its entire library network, allowing all branches to remain open with extended opening hours through a combination of staffed and self-service hours, including new Saturday opening hours, while still operating within budget constraints.
Peterborough City Council members are strong advocates of open+ and even received cross-party support from its cabinet members. They told us that open+ gave their library users everything they asked for and allowed the council to make the required saving, keeping all of its libraries open, future-proofing the service for the next five to 10 years, and extending opening hours by almost 50 percent across all sites.
What IT trends do you see having an effect on your business?
Bibliotheca recognises that the growing digital demand has created a need for innovative digital solutions that help libraries captivate their communities and connect with people at home, at the library and on the go.
To meet this need, we are developing our e-book and audio book products to create an all-encompassing digital experience for library users. This vision has now been dramatically accelerated with the recent merger of 3M and Bibliotheca, meaning that the well-established Cloud Library product is now an intrinsic part of our offering to UK libraries.
The vision for Cloud Library is to create a fully integrated patron experience combining innovative mobile apps, unique touch points inside the library, and deep integrations with third parties to ensure patrons are fully engaged with all of the services their library offers.
Certainly in terms of the in-library experience, we are uniquely positioned to provide this, being the only self-service provider with an internal e-book product.
What challenges do IT managers need to overcome when integrating technology with public services?
One of the most significant challenges that we face relates to security and privacy. We see two facets to this challenge. Firstly, the knowledge of how to implement correctly and overcome the fear of doing it wrong.
In addition, the varying quality of standards for business-to-business interoperability between systems continues be problematic. This challenge could be alleviated somewhat if businesses avoid building proprietary products and services that are over-customised.
Furthermore, working with customers that have outsourced services such as front-line support, development and hosting to third-party or off-shore providers carries its unique challenges.
What are your plans for 2016?
We look forward to helping more library sites embrace open+ as they move from pilot trials to network-wide installations.
We are confident that these rollouts will echo the success of Peterborough's open+ installation. Additionally, we will focus on helping libraries implement digital and online strategies using our Cloud Library product.
As we continue to reinforce the library as the focus of the community, we plan to extend the functionality of open+ as a system to further enhance libraries' potential. We also plan to launch the solution in the US market so the benefits of open+ can begin to take effect on a global scale.
What do you think will be the biggest IT trends to affect the public and private sectors in 2016?
We see investment in increased security for data and systems access being a key trend for 2016.
Mobile access and increased accessibility in general is also likely to be an area for increased investment to allow wider access to services and data through an increased variety of channels.
In addition, we anticipate large-scale deployments of Windows 10 now that the extended cover for XP in the public sector has expired.
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