Eastern counties regional library to launch Nova Scotia’s first ‘Open Library’

    GUYSBOROUGH: Right about the time winter kicks-in, the Cyril Ward Memorial Library will stop locking their door. Seriously.

    Don’t worry – it isn’t being converted into anything, but they are making access to the library more attainable and personal.

    The Eastern counties regional library (ECRL) received $88,000 in funding from the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage’s Culture Innovation Fund for the creation of Nova Scotia’s very first truly ‘Open Library.’

    Lloyd Hines, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal and MLA for Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie made the announcement of the three-year pilot project at Cyril Ward Memorial Library in Guysborough last Friday.

    “The Government of Nova Scotia is proud to support this innovation project,” he said. “The ECRL do a tremendous job, it’s not hard to become inspired when you see people who are working as hard as these ladies have worked for so many years in a difficult situation.”

    We now have a real opportunity to figure out a future for rural public libraries, said Laura Emery, CEO and Chief Librarian, who was bouncing with excitement and grinning ear-to-ear by the announcement.

    “An ‘Open Library’ uses technology to deliver an individualized and customized on demand service to its users, providing community members with expanded access to cultural, technological and educational resources held at the library.”

    Hines said he was very pleased to honour ECRL’s leading-edge work in bridging the gap to make libraries more relevant to the community members.

    “This group is not waiting for somebody to tell them what to do, they have stepped ahead with an extremely innovative process.”

    Vernon Pitts, Warden Municipality of the District of Guysborough, said the municipality will be there to partner with the ECRL well into the future.

    “We were really impressed to see your group come forward with a vision, a plan for the future,” he said. “Numbers make us strong, as long as we all try to attain the same goal, it’s achievable by working together.”

    This has the potential to double, even triple the access to libraries for the public, Emery said.

    “And I think that would be a good thing in everybody’s books.”

    Members of the ECRL will be able to access the secure entrance which can be unlocked by scanning a library card and entering a PIN. A security system will be installed, including CCTV cameras that will record activity in the library during extended hours, and a control system that regulates the lights, announcements, and the surveillance system.

    The general experience in existing Open Libraries is that people do genuinely care for their library and respect and appreciate the additional operating hours, Emery said.

    “Our whole operation runs on trust, nothing tragic happens when you radically trust the public,” she said. “We loan out 100,000 items a year and they only come back, if people want to bring them back.”

    To enhance the security of the library’s collection itself, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking will be issued to all ECRL inventory. The ECRL will become the first rural region in the province to use this technology.

    Trish McCormick, Deputy Chief Librarian and RFID Implementation Lead, said the RFID is a tag that will need to be applied to every book on their shelves, replacing the current barcodes.

    “The idea is when you put these tags on, when you go to leave the library, if it didn’t check out properly, we know it has left the library and we’ll know when it comes back in.”

    Along with the added security, the RFID system will allow for smoother operations. The new reader machine the libraries will be using is a flat-plate, similar to the security scanners at the checkouts of department stores.

    “So if you had five books you could set them on top of it, it would check them all in or out,” McCormick said. “Instead of having to scan every one of the barcodes individually.”

    Library staff will continue to be available during the same business hours and will continue to help those who need assistance, Emery said.

    “Before and after those regular hours, library customers will be able to help themselves to the library. Customers will be able to use the library at times most convenient to them, keeping the library relevant to their daily lives.”

    Emery emphasized Open Libraries in no way are intended to replace library staff.

    The personal service, assistance, and community engagement that library staff provides can’t be replaced by technology, she said.

    “An ‘Open Library’ increases access to library resources, without decreasing the availability of existing services. An ‘Open Library’ is not a staff-less library,” Emery said. “The addition of extended open hours will allow us to continue to serve our existing customers, while also reaching out to our community members who are currently under-served by their library.”

    The project will be completed in two phases, the first will see a self-service kiosk being installed by the fall of 2018, which will allow customers to have plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the self-serve process before the launch of the ‘Open Library’ which is expected in late winter 2019.

    ECRL is working with Bibliotheca, a German library technology company, who will supply their Open+™ system to operate the ‘Open Library’ during extended hours and will also supply the self-service kiosk that will allow customers to check out and return materials without the help of library staff. There are over 500 libraries in the world that have successfully extended their service with Bibliotheca’s Open+™ system since 2004.

    The Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage launched the Culture Innovation Fund which supports new and innovative culture initiatives that address social priorities and economic opportunities across the province. Creation of the fund was a priority action item in the province’s Culture Action Plan. The Culture Innovation Fund is made possible through Support4Culture, a designated lottery program from Nova Scotia Gaming that supports arts, culture, and heritage communities across Nova Scotia.

    Emery really wanted to drive home the fact even though their locations are in small, rural communities, really innovative and interesting things happen at their libraries.

    “Libraries can help Nova Scotians help themselves make really good things happen.”