Open+ Case Study: Cullompton, Devon

My thanks to Devon Libraries for the following description of their experience of Open+ since its installation on 16th November, 2015. Email received 20th January, 2016. [Addendum September 2016: It is worth pointing out that this was produced by those responsible for the introduction of the system. See the comments below – Ed.]

The Hayridge is a modern, multi-purpose building incorporating a small but well-equipped library, bookable meeting spaces, a café, and secure space for peripatetic council employees to hotdesk while working in the Cullompton area (more details, including a virtual tour, are available here). The meeting spaces are used by a mixture of community groups and professional organisations looking for a room to hold meetings or training sessions; income from the rooms helps to offset the cost of running the library. The meeting rooms are in use much longer than the library opening hours – on a typical weekday, the library is manned 9-5pm, but the meeting rooms are accessible from 8:30 am to 9:30 pm.

Cullompton is a small market town which largely acts as a dormitory for people working in the nearby cities of Exeter and Taunton, as well as Tiverton just a few miles away. Extending library access into the evenings and at weekends enables us to support the reading and information needs of the many people in the area who are normally working elsewhere during regular daytime library opening.

Open+ allows us to extend library opening, and provide access to the meeting rooms, outside of normal hours without additional staffing. The library is now open until 8am – 9:30 pm weekdays and 8-5:30 pm Saturdays. At the same time, Open+ has improved security by logging access through the main doors and providing much more extensive (and better quality) CCTV coverage inside the building. There have been no security issues since launch.

“The library is now open until 8am – 9:30 pm weekdays and 8-5:30 pm Saturdays”

We decided to launch our Open+ as a low-profile pilot exercise, to build up experience and expertise in operating it before deliberately trying to attract large numbers of users. So far this policy has been successful. We have a regular core of about a dozen evening users of the library (not all of whom visit on the same evening), most of whom make use of the computers and WiFi facility to access the internet. Use of the library to borrow and/or return books out of normal hours is slowly increasing as more people recognise that the facility is available. The core users act as my “eyes and ears” during unattended opening, and have somewhat taken ownership of the library after staff leave; they report back any issues or irregularities and help me to develop the working procedures (such as improving signage at the main door) associated with unattended opening. I have one person who regularly accesses the library computers at 8am each morning to perform job searches, as that is the time when he can do so with minimum disruption from others.

Most of our Open+ users to date have been people coming to use the meeting rooms for evening classes and/or community events. We have 20-30 regular evening meeting users each week, plus other occasional users of the rooms.

In total, 240 people have registered to use the Open+ system, about 40 of whom are Library staff members; the other 200 are members of the public. There was a small boost to library membership applications when evening meeting room users registered for a card so they could access the building.

Our “soft launch” policy has allowed us to refine our operating procedures as we gain experience with the system. So far the Open+ technology has worked perfectly; the issues we have had have all been “human” factors either on our part as operators, or on the customers’ part as they get used to the system. The only technology issues we have had since launch have been with other library systems, e.g. our public internet access system (which is not managed by Open+) lost connectivity one evening.

  • #1 written by Mrs Angry
    about 4 years ago

    So a PR piece, using a ‘soft launch’, atypical pilot scheme to make the argument for the introduction of libraries without librarians.

  • #2 written by Alexander Lowe
    about 4 years ago

    This is like ‘paid content’ in a newspaper’s colour supplement: essentially advertising, and nothing like an objective account. If you want to know what unmanned libraries are like, for the public and for library staff who may still work there for the remainder of the opening hours, you don’t ask the local council who have bought the system.

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