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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Visiting the Hive and exploring the Digital Outcome: 13th meeting of the Libraries Taskforce

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As indicated in our post in February, we hold the regular Taskforce meetings in a wide range of locations. For the 13th meeting, we travelled to Worcester, where our hosts were the team at the Hive - a unique library which is a collaboration between the University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council.

13th meeting

Outside the formal meeting we had a short presentation from, and discussion with, representatives of Worcestershire Libraries and Learning Service. The presentation covered the varied work they were undertaking across the county, the challenges they face, and also the background to the establishment and development of the Hive, the only joint university and public library in England.

Across the other 20 libraries in the county, there were numerous different examples of collaboration and co-location with partners, which varied according to community need. Wythall library was a joint provision with the Woodrush Academy, supported by the local community and parish council. Bewdley has a new library alongside a new local medical centre; and DWP are expanding from their existing co-location with the library in Malvern to do the same in Kidderminster and Redditch.

Tour of the Hive

After the formal meeting, we toured all 5 levels of the Hive - a multi award winning building, opened in 2012. We discovered that the distinctive ‘cones’ visible on the roofline form part of the sound dampening mechanism - and sure enough, in the central space there was a steady background noise of people moving around, voices and footsteps echoing, but once you moved into the study areas, it was quiet.

Exterior of The Hive. Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce
Exterior of The Hive. Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce

Besides the library, the building is home to the Worcestershire Hub - a one stop shop for enquiries about council services, and the Worcestershire archive and archaeology service. The building is sited in a historic part of the city, and below the stairs in the main atrium is evidence of Roman habitation - an excavated Roman oven.

Central hall of The Hive. Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce
Central hall of The Hive. Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce

In the library, the joint collections are available to both students and members of the public. The programme of events also reflects this collaboration - this season it contains everything from a Mad Muggles workshop for children, to lectures delivered by professors from the University.

Because of the shared set up between the University and County Council the Hive is open 7 days a week, between 8.30am-10pm every day. Members of staff are responsible equally for both audiences, and the team challenged us to spot who was officially employed by which service.

So if you haven’t been to the Hive yet, I’d certainly recommend it for a visit so you can find out more about their successful relationship with academia.

Outcome 3 : Improved digital access and literacy

The Outcome primarily focused on at this meeting was how libraries contribute to improved digital access and literacy. The session was led by Neil MacInnes, president of the Society of Chief Librarians, and Strategic Lead, Libraries, Galleries and Culture, in Manchester. He was accompanied by Ayub Khan, Face to Face Services Manager for Warwickshire County Council and leader of the SCL Digital Universal Offer, who gave a presentation on the work SCL had delivered to date and current priorities laid out under the Offer. He also described SCL’s plans to develop the Offer further. These included:

  • Making digital resources more easily accessible to library users - for example, undertaking proof of concept work on the feasibility of introducing digital single sign-on arrangements for accessing resources held in a variety of separate systems
  • Discussions with suppliers on how to make library collections more visible on the internet, eg. via Google searches
  • Using Arts Council funding to run ‘digital showrooms’ to help users better understand the technology available to them and encourage them to try it out and learn what might be useful for their needs

Brian Ashley, Director of Libraries at the Arts Council, then shared an update on work to take forward the Single Library Digital Presence (SLDP).

The discussion that followed was broad, and included ideas about developing more visionary thinking about future digital trends and opportunities arising from those, and the increasing tensions between freedom of information and personal data privacy. There were many potential workstreams discussed, and we’ll blog again as plans evolve. We talked about using the convening power of the Taskforce and its members to bring new partners into this area, and covered ways to build on the digital training SCL has already delivered to staff to develop their skills and confidence further.

As at the previous meeting, the broad discussion will be distilled into a short set of action points, which will be our means of tracking progress against this Outcome.

Next steps

We’ll publish the formal minutes of the meeting on GOV.UK soon, and turn our attention towards planning the 14th meeting. This is scheduled to take place at the end of May at the premises of another Taskforce partner: the Reading Agency, at the Living Word Centre in Farringdon. At that meeting, we’ll be focusing on Outcome 2 - Increased Reading and Literacy.

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