Friday, May 19, 2006

The Idea Store

"...the public library can no longer imagine itself as a sanctuary from the demands of the marketplace."

This is how a recent article in the Boston Globe ended a story on four London libraries--which are not called "libraries". They are Idea Stores, a merging of library services and learning opportunities. The first Idea Store was opened in 2002, and the most recent one in March 2006. There are three more to be built.

Here's some excerpts from the strategy document [pdf].

"Following one of the most comprehensive library consultation exercises undertaken in this country, a new concept was born. People wanted a quality library service but they would use it even more if they could combine a visit to the library with a visit to the shops. They also wanted to be able to have education support in the library as well as information."

"98% of the respondents, both users and non-users, believed the library service was important or very important. Of the 98%, over 80% felt the service was very important. There was also very positive feedback on the help and customer care offered by staff.
However, most users and non-users felt that the service was run-down and old-fashioned. Most interesting were the responses of non-users - particularly since over 70% of the population are not regular library users. People either didn’t have the time, felt the opening hours were inconvenient, found little of interest, a poor selection of books or didn’t like the atmosphere. When asked what would make a difference, non-users wanted:
• Longer opening hours
• Access to shopping
• Council information services
• Sunday opening
• Art and exhibitions
• Video lending
• Better book stock
There was a very strong demand from both users and non-users to be able to combine a visit to the library with other activities, particularly shopping."

"Our conclusions confirmed that time is precious, that people often cannot or do not want to make special visits to libraries even if the library is close at hand. If we want to make libraries and lifelong learning a part of everyone’s life, we have to compete for their time and attention.We have to fit in with modern lifestyles. However, this does not mean that the traditional strengths of the library movement can be cast aside. Investing in IT was people’s second priority. People’s top priority for libraries was books and increasing the bookstock. Despite the interest in IT and the Internet, books are likely to remain central to libraries for many years to come."

And all I'll add is, read the whole report. Even if you aren't keen on the name, or dislike this new hybrid library, you will perhaps note the similarities between their market research and the data we collected for the Perceptions report.

Here's what a blogger said about her Idea store;
"I have actually been grocery shopping, made cakes and pikelets and visited the local idea store- an east london library service which encourages all the things I love about libraries: they have internet bays, lounges to people can sit all day and read, cafe, learning/meeting rooms, large childrens area and self service areas distributed throughout the library to stop queues!! Love it. I knew that this was the perfect flat for me, even before I discovered that there was an idea store 5 mins walk from my flat. Now I have even more reason to believe I am where I'm emant [sic] to be."

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