State Library Victoria is part way through redesigning its services around its visitors needs. In this four-part series, Justine Hyde, Director of Library Services & Experience takes us on the journey of re-inventing one of Victoria’s most iconic institutions.
Part 1 – How our visitors use the Library
It’s mid-morning on a Wednesday in March. The Library has been open for less than an hour but already most of the desks and computers in the Information Centre are occupied. Family historians pore over records on microfiche, a school class queues in the foyer, a tourist comes in to ask for directions, and the Courtyard rings with excited squeals as Baby Bounce begins.
I am with a small project team that has spent the past four weeks observing visitors and asking them about their experiences in the Library as part of the first phase of the Library’s service model review.
As always, we are struck by the diversity of the Library’s visitors. Once the domain of scholars and academics, today’s Library visitors don’t just access our collections, they are just as likely to use our work facilities and technology infrastructure, visit an exhibition, or take part in our public programs. In fact, of the 1.7 million people who visited the Library in 2013, only 13 per cent came to do research.
It is the increasing diversity of our visitors – from experienced researchers, to international students, to families with young children – that has triggered the review of our services. Through the review we hope to gain a greater understanding of the changing needs and expectations of our visitors. As I write this we are in the research phase of the review.
Ben Conyers, Service Delivery & Design Manager, is one of two Library staff working with consultants, Meld Studios on the review. For Ben, the four weeks spent observing and talking to visitors about their experience has been eye opening.
‘A lot of our regular customers know exactly how we operate and what to do, but for the brand new visitor there are some very complicated things to work out,’
says Ben, noting that some people seemed unsure of whether they were even allowed to enter the Library. ‘I could see how staff were going out of their way to help, but also how much help was needed because our processes were so hard to navigate.’
In part 2 of this blog post, Justine Hyde looks at how the Library is redesigning its entrance spaces to be more welcoming to visitors.