Enfield Library Service increases use of digital reference sources by over 300 percent

Top Quote Following a benchmarking review, Enfield Library Service is now saving 30k per year and has 7,500 - 12,000 users a month of its online resources, a massive increase from just 2,500/month a year ago. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) November 30, 2010 - Enfield Library Service now has 7,500 - 12,000 users a month of its online resources, a massive increase from just 2,500/month a year ago. The higher usage comes after a thorough review of the Library's reference services by Peter Brown, Information and Digital Citizenship Manager for Enfield Libraries.

    Peter explains, "The review also involved a mystery shopping exercise to test staff knowledge of online resources, revealing that only 50 percent of library staff knew that we had them and prompting a retraining exercise. We also decided to utilise technical and licensing opportunities to make our information resources available via a PC at any library or directly from home, replacing our previous 'Central library/large branch' model." This was a considerable saving, reducing eight staff to two.

    Enfield is now extending the review to cover virtual library resources on behalf of the other 11 members of the London Libraries Consortium and to carry out a benchmarking exercise on use of different digital resources across the UK. Peter adds, "This performance-based approach is a long shout from the rather vague annual budget review comment from a financially pushed Reference Librarian of: 'it's well used' to 'last year Britannica averaged 2000 customers a month at a cost of 25p a search'!"

    Most popular resources available via http://www.enfield.gov.uk/24hourlibrary are:
    1. Ancestry.com
    2. Encyclopaedia Brittanica online
    3. Theory test online

    Peter explains, "Library users prefer to find reference information online in a more self-service, 'anytime' fashion. However, they tend to be quite discerning and prefer to use quality sources rather than turning first to search engines. Our digital resources are heavily relied upon so that if they 'go down' customers, including journalists, call us wanting to know when services will be up again."

    Library staff are trained in different ways of accessing information online so that they can pass this information onto library users. The training is split into four modules, covering legal and business; online newspapers; study support; and local and community information. Trainees then cascade the information into bitesize learning for other members of their teams. Peter adds, "The specialist training I and my colleague, Paolo Zanelli, now deliver throughout the year, has paid dividends and was the key factor in increasing usage."

    Prior to the review Enfield was spending annually 80k on standing orders, and 20k on other hard copy reference materials, excluding periodicals. In the current financial year (10/11) the standing order budget has been reduced to 5k and other hard copy materials to 10k and the budget for online subscriptions is 55k - in total a total spend of 70k representing a saving of 30k.

    Benchmarking performance is now needed across the Consortium - but all participating authorities must invest in training if they are going to see usage of resources increase by 250 to 400 percent. Further savings will be achieved across the consortium as the project is rolled out.

    1. Many library staff, publishers and customers are still wedded to their books, and actively disparage the digital switchover, however this is inevitable. Oxford has now announced that the multi-volume OED will in future only be published digitally, other standard texts will follow - likewise textbooks. Many services are only available digitally with the range and depth of information for business, legal and news, completely outstripping hardcopy. Customers lead busy lives and they will not make the time to visit in person. Library staff must lead the way.
    2. Investing in training will improve competency and usage, key data for stakeholders when planning services. This will identify whether some of the reference volumes stocked over the decades, are in fact seldom used.
    3. London Libraries Consortium members: Barking & Dagenham, Brent, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth.
    4. The London Libraries Consortium can be contacted via Madeline Barratt, Libraries Strategy & Performance Manager, Enfield Libraries: Madeline.Barratt ( @ ) enfield dot gov dot uk or 0208 379 3784 dot
    5. Axiell http://www.axiell.co.uk

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