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My place @ ALICE

Jane Cowell reimagines the digital future of public libraries and proposes a demand-driven business model that puts users at the centre…

ALICE is the coloquial name State Library of Queensland (SLQ) has given to a research project lovingly called Digital Library Project 5 for the official record. With this project we set out to explore what a public library could be in 2020 in the virtual realm – completely reimagining how creators, content and users connect. We also wanted to imagine a solution if libraries took the opportunity to move from a ‘passively consuming content model’ to one where they actively work to create and distribute content; in effect, take on a local publishing role.

Why is this different?

ALICE is NOT a library management system to sort and loan stuff! ALICE is a new digital library model that is a user centric aggregator of content and trusted author and information services to support users, local authors and creators.

The findings of the ALICE project support the idea that there is a need for the deeply local aggregator of published and unpublished content. It also turns the concept of a library being about a curated collection on its head. ALICE is about you, the user, the author, the editor, the documentary film maker, the music maker. It connects you to the aggregated content that will be of interest wherever it is, both global and local, acting both as a distributor of content and aggregator based on your profile and preferences. It connects you to the deeply local around your interests and where you live, and that can be content, events or people.

Because we imagined ALICE utitlising geopositioning technology, this connecting to local could include events from local galleries, museums, writing groups. Whichever local organisations with a digital presence, be it website, Facebook , or other social networking site, could have their content aggregated onto ALICE to reach the user whose preferences and location match.

Why is this so?

Because we asked people. We asked authors, publishers, digital publishers, a copyright collecting agency, videographers, library users, regional libraries, business and technologists what was frustrating about the current environment and what they wished was available.

Users feel overwhelmed by the amount of content available, so clear choices for content, based on the users’ interests, was a wish. Users find the current offering of digital content through libraries fragmented and confusing. Users, authors, publishers, business and technologists also are unaware what can be accessed from either their local public library or State Library, and these are not their first option for information or digital content.

Creators also reported their main publishing priorities are distribution and creative control. Demand for trusted author services at every stage, from book production to distribution and discovery, exists, especially for the new and more independent authors.

The image below is a very early view of what an ALICE could be with a reading shelf, social feed, search functionality user profile, library bag, connections, regional library section and a local events feed.

It has been very liberating and exciting being on such a reimagining journey with ALICE and here at SLQ we are actively seeking partners to bring ALICE to reality. Watch this space!

Jane Cowell is Director, Regional Access and Public Libraries, State Library of Queensland. Jane joined the State Library in May 2010. In this role, Jane’s priorities include driving reviews of grant funding methodology and service delivery models for public libraries, growing the capacity of public libraries, overseeing the establishment of a state-wide literacy framework, and focusing on strengthening advocacy for libraries. Jane has over 20 years’ experience in local government, as Manager Library Services, Caboolture Shire Council and Hinterland Services Librarian in Caloundra City Council. Since 2008, Jane worked as a Senior Consultant in AEC Group Consultancy, undertaking a great variety of library consultancies all over Australia. Jane’s areas of special interest and expertise include innovation in library and outreach services, community facility management, strategic planning, re-engineering of library operations and public library design.




Feature image: Rope by Vincitrice, supplied by stock.xchange

2nd image: Early view of ALICE, supplied by State Library of Queensland.