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Local Digital Insights from libraries

September 8, 2014

Digital Insights from libraries

Local Government now has a Library Renewals Digital Dashboard with GOV.UK. This builds on the Performance Platform developed by GDS and follows the Missed Bins dashboard reported on earlier.

The Library Items renewals dashboard shows live data illustrating how library users are migrating to digital channels. Libraries don’t just lend books any more, they are becoming community hubs and also lend many other items like CDs DVDs and online material.

Our first example comes from Warwickshire County Council and is led by the Digital by Default Programme Manager Kate Sahota, with Matt Harrington from GDS, who has also blogged on this subject.

At Warwickshire we can see that 45.1% of renewals are online.

Library Digital Dashboard GIF2

Users can also renew items at unstaffed digital kiosks around the county. 33.8% of Warwickshire’s users do that, which added to the 45.1% gives a resounding 78.9% digital take-up for this transaction.

Digital Inclusion

We also collected data on the type of users renewing items. That reveals some interesting digital inclusion insights.

Library Demographics

Many people would not have forecast that the numbers of Senior Citizens (60+) renewing items digitally is 43.7%, only marginally behind 15 year old teenagers at 46.2%.

Young adults (16 to 17) being substantially ahead of Adults is perhaps less of a surprise. It will be interesting to see how these figures change over the coming months and years.

Next steps

The intention is to carry on publishing this data every week and to invite all other libraries in the country to provide their data to the GOV.UK website. Presenting this data on maps is also in the pipeline. That will provide some great digital inclusion insights for the country.


  1. shirleyswindon permalink

    To be classed as a ‘senior citizen’ at only 60 years of age! Obviously it’s the retirement-age for women and therefore a logical threshold for your purposes – but large numbers of men and women coming up to sixty will balk at suffering this indignity. Many of us have been online since today’s movers and shakers were in nappies. Others may object to being bullied by the likes of Francis Maude:

    “Go on the internet – or lose access to government services”, Maude told pensioners in June this year:

    Charming, isn’t it, from a man born in 1953?

    It is common sense to acknowledge public libraries’ key role in helping *everyone* become computer literate, but your research is undertaken at a time when closing accessible branch libraries or divesting them to a mish-mash of providers, including volunteers, is increasing.

    I suggest that more data be included in your Dashboards, viz: statistics on the shrinkage or growth of people’s access to public computers and whether the public can rely on expert assistance from digitally literate, paid staff. Without that information, you will fail to provide a clear picture of the Digital Divide and its causes.

    • Shirley, thanks for your feedback – interesting thoughts. We definitely wish to evolve the dashboard over time and your thoughts will go into this melting pot.

      Apologies to anyone of 60 years who balks at the “Senior Citizen” label! From a quick trawl of the web, the term seems to be used for people of anywhere from 50 years onwards:

      => Some US Insurance companies start their senior citizen programmes from 50.

      => In the UK, Seniors cover seems to start from 55

      => Senior rail cards start from 60

      => Holiday companies often start senior at 60

      => State pensions now start over 60, depending on your gender and birth date.

      => Under the Pensions Act 2014, the Government brought forward the rise in State Pension age to 67 for both men and women to 6 April 2028.

      So, the age at which one becomes a senior citizen is an ongoing negotiation, it seems! Pick a number anywhere between 50 and 67.

      For the dashboard, it will probably be best not to use the term at all, and simply allow users to select age ranges. Certainly looking forward to providing more data in the dashboards, as you suggest, over the coming months and years. I’m sure this won’t provide all the answer to digital inclusion, but we do hope it will be a useful resource in the digital inclusion discussion.

  2. shirleyswindon permalink

    The age issue matters far, far less than does ‘access’ to staffed libraries and public computers.

    Too many local authorities are trumpeting “libraries for the 21st century” whilst their policies of closure & divestment deny access to the most isolated and those who have most need of them. I hope the data I’ve suggested will be fed into your dashboards within months rather than years! It’s important. Many thanks.

  3. Steven heywood permalink

    To provide a context for the dashboard data it would make sense for you to have an automatic update of each year’s library submissions to CIPFA so that relationships between customer transactions, stock levels and opening hours could be factored into trends.

    Similarly, library authorities should be providing anonymised granular demographic data including ages (in years)

    • Steven, Excellent suggestion, thanks. Ideas lile these are on the radar, its really helpful to hear from people like yourself what would make the most useful additions to the dashboard.

  4. There is also a significant *national* shared services digital infrastructure in place-inc’ free access to millions of (electronic) journal articles –but it is not well known. See Local Gov Library Technology (LGLibTech)

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Another performance dashboard for local government | Data at GDS
  2. Libraries News Round-up: 14 September 2014 | The Library Campaign

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