Case study

Peterborough library service and Bibliotheca Open+

Using technology to extend library opening hours.

Open+ in action
Open+ in action. Photo credit: Bibliotheca

Contribution to corporate policies

Bibliotheca Open+ has enabled Peterborough libraries to contribute to smarter ways of working as all libraries can continue to deliver a service which is open for longer hours, allowing them to successfully overcome the challenge of transformation in times of austerity.

Description of the work

Peterborough Library Service has 10 public libraries and 1 mobile library. Following significant expenditure cuts, a review of the library service began in 2014, which led to a public consultation to understand how residents use, or would like to use, their libraries.

The public consultation showed that the most valued aspects of the service were:

  • the ability to borrow books
  • access to information
  • location

In addition, when asked ‘What would make you use your library more?’ 75% of respondents stated that access outside of normal opening hours was important.

In response to the consultation, the council considered a range of models and opted for the Open+ model delivered by Bibliotheca. This technology can be used to complement a library’s core staffed hours by extending opening times. Now libraries have more flexibility over the days and hours they open for their communities. It has enabled all the libraries to remain open through a combination of staffed and extended self-service hours.

The technology is really easy to use, it’s an extension of the libraries current Radio-Frequency IDentification (RFID) system, and it links with the doors, alarms and lights automating the building via verification through the Library Management System. With so many of their patrons already accustomed to using self-service, accessing the library by simply scanning their library card and entering their usual pin number at the external access control panel was easy to adapt to straight away. Users can come in, use the building, do what they need to do and then leave or, if they need staff assistance, they can visit during staffed hours.

Outcomes achieved

Open+ has been really well received by councillors and had cross-party support. The solution has enabled the authority to:

  • make the required saving of £305,000
  • keep all of their libraries open
  • future-proof their service for the next 5 years
  • extend opening hours by almost 50% across all sites, which have gone from 261 hours to 386 hours per week

Saving

Peterborough library service has:

  • seen a reduction of £305,000 to a total library budget of £1.5 million
  • saved £275,000 from staff with voluntary redundancies
  • £30,000 from materials

Capital

Open+ cost £170,000 as one off capital, broken down as:

  • £123,000 for Open+ system
  • £45,000 for cabling and doors
  • £2,000 for enabling works, including internal locks

Revenue

Open+ requires ongoing support costs of £1,500 per library which is £13,500 per year. The cost of borrowing is £24,600 over 8.5 years.

The libraries are more alive now than they have ever been before, with groups independently using the space. Users are not restricted and they appreciate the choice that the new system offers.

Accomplishments

Since the initial implementation, over 15,000 library members have opted in, with a peak usage of 250 open+ users in one day. Overall library usage rose by 3% in the first year and there was more use of libraries by community groups and council workers. Customers have found it really easy to use, they are grateful that libraries have been kept open and for longer, and people are using them.

Future plans

The library service now looks forward to widening community use to create multi-user sites.

Additional information on this subject

Case study: Open+ in Cullompton, Devon

Contact for further information: librariestaskforce@culture.gov.uk

Published 16 December 2015
Last updated 28 January 2016 + show all updates
  1. Link to another case study added
  2. First published.