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‘Library 21’: Research, Feasibility and Visualisation

Library 21, led by The Reading Agency and funded by Arts Council England’s Libraries Development Initiative, was a research and scoping project exploring a new concept for public libraries in the digital age. The project focused on the idea of the physical library space as a destination for readers and tested a proposition for in-library access to a wide range of digital reading and reading-related content.

The Literary Platform worked with The Reading Agency, and a steering committee made up of publishing and library executives, for the full duration of the project (February – May 2013). Our brief was to design and carry out the research and to oversee the day-to-day running of the project. We were chosen because of our knowledge of the publishing and library sectors and the challenges they both face.

Our work on the project included: working with the steering group to model and refine a proposition which would be tested through the research, designing and conducting the research, identifying key stakeholders and securing their involvement, drafting the final report, completing evaluation required under the conditions of funding.

The research we designed and conducted consisted of:

  • Conducting 22 in-depth interviews with experts in publishing, library, library services, information management, digital and policy sectors.
  • Designing a service user survey for medium-heavy readers and existing library users and analysing the data received from the 500 respondents
  • Setting up and running two focus groups, one for service users and one for professionals drawn from the publishing, library and technology sectors
  • Writing nine case studies of services and projects which provided insight into curation, user experience in digital services, location specific access to content and digital library initiatives worldwide
  • Desk research collating relevant research and literature around publishing, libraries, book retail and digital transformation

You can read the full Library 21 report here. Library 21 was highlighted in DCMS’ annual government report to Parliament on public library activities.

Phase 2: Visualising Library 21

In early 2014 The Reading Agency invited us, together with digital agency, Booksarm, to work on the next phase of the Library 21. Our brief was to create a visual journey through Library 21 that would support their conversations with partners, developers and funders.

Our work included:

  • Creating use cases and user journeys based on the findings in the report
  • Commissioning illustrations of the user journeys including key elements of the user experience and the environment
  • Creating an infographic that presented key data included in the report
  • Working with Bookswarm to publish these – together with their drawings of technical schema and key system interfaces – as a coherent narrative, which we did using the Creatavist platform.

The Library 21 project was mentioned in DCMS’s Independent Library Report for England (December 2014) and in a Guardian article about the report (January 2015)

Harpreet's Journey

Illustration for Library 21 by Sam Murdoch of Crush Creative