Welsh Libraries Digital Services Discovery
In recent years there has been a marked increase in the use of digital library services, while the use of library core services in Wales has dropped over the last decade. This acceleration of digital services is due to the Covid-19 pandemic forcing the closure of library buildings. With this move towards an increased use of digital services, it is an important time to review the digital library services available in Wales to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the citizens that rely on them.
The Welsh Library Management System (LMS) is a digital system that 20 of the 22 Welsh local authorities have adopted, with Merthyr and Pembrokeshire potentially joining in future. The system allows users to join the library, browse the catalogue, manage their accounts, and reserve books online. When this system was first designed it was done so with business processes at the heart of its development, and very little service user consultation.
This lack of user-centred design has been recognised by library managers, who approached the Welsh Local Government Digital (WLGD) team in Spring 2021. We discussed how we might be able to help them understand whether the LMS was meeting the needs of its users. It was agreed that WLGD would lead on a discovery project which would carry out user research to understand:
- how users are experiencing the LMS in its current state
- any user requirements for an improved user experience when using the LMS
- how users would feel about the possibility of developing an All-Wales library system which would enable users to have access to book stocks in other local authorities and collect and drop off books outside of their local library service.
We were initially asked to quickly undertake some high-level user research, which resulted in this user requirement report being published in May 2021. The report explored the LMS registration experience of new users and captured some of the system requirements of existing users, but due to time constraints this research needed further development. We offered to further support this work by conducting more extensive user research on the usability of the LMS with a range of user groups, which included:
- Current library members
- Lapsed members
- LMS management and admin staff (back-end users).
The user research consisted of a focus group with 15 current library members, one-to-one interviews with 3 back-end system users, and a survey of lapsed and non-members, which received over 270 responses. All the information gathered was analysed and the findings were presented in the Welsh LMS User Research Report that was published in September 2021. The report contains information on users’ experience of using the LMS, the challenges they face using the LMS, their requirements for an improved digital library system, their attitudes towards developing an All-Wales library system, the results of an accessibility audit of the LMS and a series of recommendations around how to improve the system for users.
We’ve had great feedback on the work we’ve produced, and Welsh library managers hope to use the report findings in a variety of ways. The results will help to support the future development and improvement of the LMS, to inform the system re-procurement process at the end of 2023 and to help with the decision to move to an All-Wales library system.
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