Five Trends Shaping the Library Experience in 2023
For many of the estimated 7.3 million active borrowers in the UK, libraries are places for inspiration, shelter and a way to connect with their communities. Research from The Reading Agency estimates that 214 million library visits take place every year.
In the last year, libraries have taken on another critical role, opening their doors to communities across the country during the challenging winter times amid the cost of living of crisis.
As we move into 2023, patrons are turning to their libraries to offer more than just a simple borrow-and-return service. In response, libraries are making conscious efforts to provide services that the modern-day library user requires. This has, in turn, sparked innovation and a new place for libraries in the community.
After exploring the ways in which libraries will change and adapt in the coming year, we have compiled a list of five trends that are shaping libraries and transforming user-experiences in 2023.
The Top 5 Library Trends for 2023
1. Digital, in every sense
With significant leaps in technology taking place every day, patrons are expecting libraries to provide a seamless, accessible experience. Many libraries across the UK have invested and adapted to accommodate the demands of the modern library consumer, such as RFID self-service kiosks, security gates and mobile applications such as dedicated library apps.
In 2023 and beyond, self-service kiosks will be used alongside other digital capabilities and emerging technology. The British Library, for example, has announced a novel digital initiative that will be available to librarians and sector users by early 2023. The beta version of the ‘Single Digital Presence’, a website for all public libraries, will bring libraries and technology into public focus. This national platform, which was supported by the Arts Council, will allow libraries to carve out their own space in people’s digital lives and bring library materials to the forefront of a digital generation.
The platform will directly connect patrons to the UK library sector as a whole, whilst also showcasing resources at their own local library, with a smooth and intuitive user journey between the two.
2. Smart Speaker or Smarter Speaking?
Unsurprisingly, the rise in smart speakers and virtual assistants has continued with patrons turning to modern voice recognition bots. A recent survey by SerpWatch discovered that Siri, alongside Google Assistant, is the most popular AI bot with over 500 million people worldwide opting to use Apple’s digital help assistant.
As this happens, our libraries and their digital collections will become more compatible with the increasingly popular voice recognition software, with patrons able to search for library materials and content simply by using their voice. Library applications and information systems can be enabled to respond to voice commands, providing valuable assistance for persons with disabilities as well as helping library staff save time.
Speech recognition can be used instead of keyboards or touch pads for entering a search query or making other service requests. This capability can be helpful for those that have limitations in motor skills, or for those that just find voice commands easier. Although some libraries are yet to implement voice recognition software for general use, there are some exciting innovations in experimentation and deployment.
With the annual UN climate conference keeping the matter of positive environmental change at the forefront of everybody’s mind, libraries are continuing to come up with innovative ideas to make libraries more sustainable. GLL, a charitable social enterprise that runs public libraries in the UK, has already received recognition for being the first network of libraries to exchange plastic library cards for a new, biodegradable alternative, saving over eight football fields worth of plastic.
GLL has also made significant improvements in reducing its emissions on transport through the direct delivery of book stocks to library branches and opting for suppliers that avoid a drastic spike in the library’s emissions.
Leading library association organisation, CILIP has also rolled out a CILIP green libraries strategy that spotlights sustainability as one of the four key strategic contexts that are shaping the sector. Its recent Green Library Survey discovered that 56% of libraries in the UK have made initial progress in their environmental journey, whereas 27% of libraries are at the very beginning of their journey. Over the last year, CILIP has been making extra efforts to drive forward the climate-conscious image that libraries are hubs of sustainability and has recently launched ‘Green Libraries’ which connects libraries with leading organisations such as the Arts Council England, Libraries Connected, and Julie’s Bicycle.
4. Flexible Community Spaces
Now that hybrid working and working from home have become the new normal, 86% of homeowners, according to the ONS, have reported an increase in their utility bills over the winter 2023 period. With Ofgem announcing an average rise of £1,570 in gas and electricity costs for UK households, staying warm is a hot topic.
Libraries were quick to respond with solutions for the challenging times. Up and down the country libraries opened their doors to the communities they serve and encouraged patrons to see the library as more than a hub of information and education. In just one example warm meals and electric blankets were rolled out after Sussex Council announced it would be using community buildings, particularly libraries to help those in need of support.
This trend has only continued into the new year with libraries going beyond offering hot meals in order to start community fridges and food banks, giving local residents the opportunity to restock their essentials free of judgement. Hadleigh Library in Essex is one of the most recent libraries to announce a community space with the hopes of bringing people together to share food, and skills and at the same time combat food waste.
A recent survey conducted by Skint Dad reported 280 libraries currently operating as community fridges with an estimated growth of up to 500 in 2023. It’s suspected that after the success of the community fridge, it will soon be normal for libraries to offer patrons more than a simple borrow-and-return system and will extend their support beyond the regular library users.
5. A New Generation of Library Standards
Led by LCF
It’s not just the library self-services and patrons’ experiences being boosted in the coming year! The book industry’s supply chain organisation, BIC (Book Industry Communication) has developed a modern, updated Library Communication Framework (LCF) which operates as “a set of library standards which defines a framework for the communication of data to and from library management systems (LMS). LCF is intended to support a much-needed rationalisation of the interoperation between disparate IT solutions.”
And because the new framework has been designed by an independent body, it is designed to work with, and for, librarians. This means a whole host of benefits for libraries in the future – such as efficiencies through automation, enhanced analytics, and improved operability – which you will ultimately be able to pass onto your patrons.
In fact, early reports from libraires already equipped are saying that the setup is very simple and is already proving to be a big-time saver! The advancement in security is also proving to be a major benefit of LCF, operating using HTTPS, the worldwide standard secure protocol, it allows the third-part application to be authenticated by key, which is both simple and secure for librarians to configure.
The simple configuration of LCF means that it’s built for longevity and innovation! Designed with the future in mind library technology suppliers will be able to invest more heavily in developing the next generation of solutions with increased confidence in servicing a wider audience.
As innovators of library technology for over 20 years, D-Tech International is always operating at the cutting-edge to develop the next generation of enhancements – speak to one of our experienced and friendly team to find out how new technologies could transform your patron experience.