Thursday, 25 June 2015

RFID grants to libraries

As I mentioned in the last post, the Libraries Board has provided $390,000 of its own bequest funds as the seed funding for the RFID project.  This is additional funding over & above the State Government grant which the Board administers.  Having access to this discretionary funding from the Board has proved to be very useful for our network.  Prior to this grant the Board's largest contribution was the funding for the rollout of Wi-Fi to all libraries about a decade ago.  The Board also provided most of the costs for the "Tomorrow's Libraries" report which is due out next week, and will be considering some additional funds for the School Community Libraries community led planning program for 2015/16 & 2016/17.

Given the size of this grant we will be reporting the additional expenditure in public libraries in our aggregated statistics which we report on to National & State Libraries of Australasia (NSLA). You can see past national public libraries statistics here.

To provide some scale around these grants on a per council basis, the cost of the provision of tags to libraries ranges from $750 for our smallest library Andamooka (by collection size), through $9,500 to the Coorong, over $10,000 for Barossa & almost $13,000 for Wattle Range to $17,000 for Campbelltown and over $34,000 for Charles Sturt.  And this does not put a price on the delivery and provision of the tagging stations which will be provided at no cost to all libraries with a collection of over 15,500 items.

And of course the money goes a lot further and buys a lot more tags and equipment because of the total value of the tender we have been able to put into the market.  The price of tags and equipment would have been considerably higher if libraries had have purchased these items on their own.

It could be said that libraries which have been early adopters of RFID are not receiving a benefit from this grant process. However I believe there is clear evidence of the benefits all libraries will derive & this will become much clearer from November 2 this year.  One of the motivations for applying to the Board for the grant for this project was to speed up the universal application of RFID in all libraries.  This will mean that large RIFD enabled libraries will soon have all items received through the courier able to fit into their RFID workflows, without needing to run a second process for these items.  I know that these efficiencies will be welcomed in libraries which have already deployed RFID.

Also, as soon as we progress the RFID rollout a bit further we will be able to look at contracting our materials suppliers to provide items "shelf ready" - with RFID tags already applied to items.  This will provide a further benefit to all libraries, by having this work done in the most efficient and cost effective way possible.

The governance model for our public library network which provides considerable local autonomy, coupled with collaboration where it adds value as well as the leadership and additional funding from the Libraries Board is a unique and powerful model.  It creates an environment where even the smallest libraries have access to great technology and content, while our larger libraries also gain benefits from their participation.  We will see more evidence of the value of this model when we provide State-wide access to over 400 online magazines through Zinio and thousands of online training & information videos through in coming weeks.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

RFID Project update

PLS has been working on our RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) project for months & are now ready to move from the planning stage in our office to the implementation stage of the project in libraries.

The aim of this project is to complete the tagging of the State's 4M items.  At this stage half (2M) of the items are already tagged, so we're aiming to get the other half tagged between now and the end of 2017 at the latest.

The Libraries Board has provided $390,000 from its own fund towards the cost of the RFID tags and some ancillary project costs.

The Board has entered into a contract with Bibliotheca for the supply of tags and "pads" used to read & write to the tags.  However libraries will be free to purchase other tags and equipment from other suppliers, so long as they conform to our "RFID Interoperability Specification" (password required).

James Kemperman is managing the project & will be in contact with libraries in coming weeks to negotiate each library's place in the queue.  The queue relates to the provision of loan equipment provided by Bibliotheca to allow libraries to speed up their tagging process.  Libraries with collections of more than 15,500 items have been scheduled in the project plan to use this equipment.  Depending on availability, other libraries who would like to borrow extra equipment can do so as well, in the latter part of 2017.

All libraries will be provided with an "encoding pad" and an initial allocation of tags through August/September this year.  Staff from PLS will be available to support library staff through the installation of the equipment.  The equipment will come with a USB stick which will have software which needs to be installed on your PC.  It will also include training notes and videos to support your local project. We will also be providing some more FAQ answers to accompany the delivery of the equipment, and there will be some regional hub meetings where project support will be provided.

As per previous notifications your library will need to pay for this pad, as you will need to use it to add tags to all new items as they arrive. This pad and accompanying equipment will allow libraries to start tagging their collections as soon as they feel comfortable to do so.

Some libraries will choose to use a project "blitz" approach of doing their collections in a short period of time.  This is the most efficient way of working, and it will be required for those libraries which will have the Bibliotheca tagging stations for a set period of time.

However for our smaller libraries they may choose to do their collections at a more steady pace.  They can do this by choosing to just put tags in the items which are being shipped to other libraries.

In fact perhaps the most important message about the project is that from 2 November this year there is an expectation of all libraries that every item which enters a TOLL black box to transit to other libraries will need to have an encoded tag in it.  This will ensure that for those libraries already using RFID, they should be able to have a single workflow for the circulation of their items from that day forward.

PLS staff will be more than happy to support staff through their initial learning phase, however this is a very simple process which is nowhere near as complex as changing over to One Card. 

Friday, 5 June 2015

e-book readers hit the jackpot

On Monday we turned on a relatively new LMS product called e-Resource Central or eRC & have been amazed at the impact it has had in connecting customers to e-books.

What is eRC?  It is a piece of software from SirsiDyinx our LMS provider.  It displays records for all of the e-books we have bought through our current e-book supplier Overdrive directly in our discovery product Enterprise.  So - instead of people needing to know that they have to go directly to the Overdrive site to find our e-books, they can just be searching their library's "catalogue" and all of the e-books are there, displayed & ready to download!

We've been waiting a while to get this service operational, so we're delighted that it is having a real impact already. On Monday (1 June) we populated Enterprise with our e-book holdings and this was the result:
Monday: 796 new signed up e-book downloading customers
Tuesday 2,497
Wednesday 1,625
Thursday 1,404
Friday 1,020 (& the day isn't done).

So by making these resources discoverable without any publicity over 7,300 people have downloaded their 1st free e-book from their public library catalogue.  Imagine what will happen when we start telling people about it!

Also - we've almost concluded contract negotiations to add the content from a second e-book provider to the system, which will be great.  Once we have the 2 providers working properly we'll be spruiking this to all & sundry.

As can be seen in the screenshot below, many e-books provide an opportunity to preview a book before downloading it.

We're delighted to have e-books integrated into all SA public libraries' catalogues & can't wait to add new titles in coming months.

Monday, 1 June 2015

One Card in China?

Many of you will be aware that a delegation of government, business and cultural officials from South Australia spent last week in China's Shandong Province exploring ways that the two states can deepen their almost 30 year old relationship.  Prior to the SA delegation travelling to Shandong, officials from China had visited Adelaide & amongst other things, they'd been briefed on the One Card project and had appeared to show considerable interest in how it worked & whether it was applicable in their circumstances.

Alan Smith the Director of the State Library was part of the SA delegation, at which One Card and other library projects were discussed.  The week culminated with a Shandong Library and the State Library of SA signing a formal agreement to cooperate together on several fronts.  One of these will be Public Library Services working closely with the Shandong Library through staff exchanges and other forms of support to "...properly support Shandong Library in setting up and operating One Card Management and Services System."

There is a media release about this here.

It is a little mind blowing how a system which supports the 1.6M residents of SA can be scaled to support even parts of Shandong, let alone the full province (of 96M people). However the principles of cooperation and sharing and the economies of scale of such approaches remain constant even if the scale and mechanisms may be different.  It would be a really amazing thing if what we've done here creates the catalyst for a single provincial system or even a number of systems across the larger cities of the province.

At PLS we're very excited as to what this may mean for us - providing support to Shandong & also learning from them.  Our 1st step along the way is likely to be hosting a staff member from the Shandong Library for several months, as they get to explore what we've done & how it all works.  While they're here we'll make sure that they get out & about in the State, visiting libraries and participating in our various events and activities.  The State Library will also be hosting an intern to look at the way that they support the Library & Information Management courses at UniSA.  Shane Cathcart (SLSA Associate Director) & I have already begun discussions regarding how we can provide a professionally & culturally stimulating experience for both of our visitors while they're here.

We'll keep you posted regarding progress!!