Focus on the user? Focus on the non-user!

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Stavanger is the third largest city in Norway, it has a cultural centre called  “Sølvberget“; the cultural centre has just finalized a report on how to attract users, or rather non-users, to libraries. This is an interesting take on things because in Norway, we often talk about “focussing on the user”, but the real issue most libraries face (though apparently not the one where I work) is sinking numbers of users, so the focus shouldn’t be on providing better services for users, but attracting non-users.

The cultural centre carried out a survey to find out why non-users don’t use libraries, and what libraries can do to attract them; based on this, they have produced the following list of improvements [condensed and translated from the Norwegian original by me]:

  • Library in the workplace
    • Placing a small selection of books in workplaces around the town
    • Operates rather like a workplace fruit basket
    • Creates interest in the library offering
    • Gets the books to where people are
  • Lower fees
    • People complain about the scale of fees
    • Fees act as a disincentive to borrow, and an incentive to buy
  • Collaboration with museums
    • Mutual presentation
    • Exhibitions in the library
    • Common events (lectures, films)
    • Sharing of intellectual resources
  • Online study help for school students
    • Extends the concept of library as a knowledge centre
    • Get young people used to using the library
  • Library services on your mobile phone
    • Makes the library more readily accessible
    • Makes the library accessible by means of the most common communication medium
  • Mobile experiential space
    • Like a book bus, but not a book bus (there’s more to experience, hence the name)
    • Gets library services out to where people are (if they don’t live in the town centre)
  • Book lending service for overseas staff at the city’s largest employer
    • Stavanger is an oil city, and represents a lot of workers abroad
    • The library sends books to these workers

I think that there has been some really creative thinking going on here, and it’s especially interesting to see that the library is so “free and easy” with its collection, sending titles out to companies and abroad.

Another thing I like is the mobile phone library, this is obviously an absolute must (I’ve said this before), and we really need to get good open source technology to achieve these aims.

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