Digital Transformation | Leadership | Strategy | Consulting | Speaking | Training - Adelaide, South Australia
library digital strategy

Yesterday I delivered a presentation to the Public Libraries South Australia association at their Quarterly Update meeting at the Cove Civic Centre, Hallett Cove.

You can see the Prezi presentation slides here…

The following is a transcript of the presentation:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

No koalas behind the back today, but I promise I will show you a nice video in just a second.

I was asked by the PLSA committee to speak today and give you a bit of an update on the progress of my work at PLS.

For those that weren’t at the last PLSA quarterly, I’ve been engaged by PLS to produce a digital strategy for the library network.

The document is due for submission at the end of next month, so I have been quite busy pulling it all together in the past few weeks — it’s just on 100 pages at the moment, so it will be some heavy reading!

Today I wanted to run through the foundational model that I have put together for the strategy. You each should have a copy in your hot little hands.

But first, a video to get us in the mood. I’m going to show you this eight minute video about The Hunt Library in the US – some of you may have seen it. It goes for 8 minutes, so settle back…

The final quote from the director of library resonated with me when I watched this video: “I hope the library… is known as a place of excellence, and a place of passion, and ideas and vision. You can’t be in this building and not think that something is happening at this university”.

If you substitute ‘at this university’ with ‘in this community’ – you have the makings of what the library should really mean for your community too.


So let me introduce you to the Digital Strategy and Operations Model diagram.  It’s colourful, isn’t it?

Before I begin, I want to make a little disclaimer.  Everything that I tell you today is ‘the world according to Clayton’ – it hasn’t been endorsed or ratified by anyone at this stage.  It has been influenced significantly by my interactions with SAPLN staff, but it’s not the ‘official’ picture.

I hope that a lot of it does get adopted in time, but at this stage please do not consider it gospel.

So back to the model. This diagram is basically the foundation stone of the digital strategy and operations plan that I am writing.

So let me explain what it all means.

The graphic is divided into two levels: the strategic and the operational.

The strategic level is representative of a three year period – July 2016 – June 2019 – and involves the development of a three year strategy document, which will be approved by the Libraries Board.

The intent of the digital strategy document is to provide an overarching framework and direction for the digital program. It’s fairly broad and deals with philosophies, methodologies and contextual stuff.

The operational level, on the other hand, is more about specific initiatives and actions – you’re more likely to be interested in this level.  

This level requires the production of annual plans for each of the delivery channels that we will talk about later on.  These plans allow for the allocation of an annual budget and they permit flexibility within the wider three year scope of the overarching strategy document.

As you might imagine, three year strategies in the digital world are fraught with danger because technology moves so fast.  By having annual channel plans we have the ability to change direction or shift focus.

So the strategy level sets down a few key elements:

Scope / Definition of “digital”

Services and content that enhance the electronic connectedness of the library with the community.


To deliver, support and continually improve a digital platform that facilitates community learning, participation, creativity, innovation and well-being. — this is taken directly out of Tomorrow’s Libraries, as you would expect this strategy needs to facilitate the higher needs of the wider strategy.


A link…

I wanted to spend a moment talking briefly about people,culture and leadership, which are addressed in the strategy document.

I was at pains at the last quarterly to argue that the digital ‘solution’ that we are all looking for IS NOT a technology solution, but rather a people solution. You guys are the solution. Your library staff are the solution. The staff at PLS are the solution.  

But paradoxically, you’re all potentially the reason why a digital transformation could fail.

I mentioned during my last presentation a quote from Peter Drucker: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’

If the organisation’s culture isn’t aligned to the strategy that has been articulated, then the strategy will fail.

A successful strategy starts with leadership, not just from PLS, but from across the library network.

The prevailing leadership theory today is known as ‘adaptive leadership’ and it comes from two Harvard academics Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky.  

Bear with me I’m not going to bore you to death with an academic lecture – but this is actually quite important.

At the heart of adaptive leadership is a distinction between ‘technical’ problems and ‘adaptive’ problems.  

Technical problems are the routine, everyday business-as-usual tasks faced by an organisation, for which there is a known solution. These tasks are tackled daily by managers and their staff.

Adaptive problems, on the other hand, are complex, strategic problems with no identified solution.  Tackling these problems causes widespread change, discomfort and often significant loss for some of the stakeholders involved.  Adaptive leadership recognises that a degree of disequilibrium and conflict is required to make change happen.

Now the problem for many organisations is that those in authority positions busy themselves with the ‘technical’ problems because they’re routine and they’re comparatively easy to deal with

They don’t typically spend time on the ‘adaptive’ problems – the more difficult, deep seated issues which are so critical for the future prosperity of the organisation.

So what are some of these ‘adaptive’ problems in library land?

Here’s a little list – and it’s no surprise that a lot of them have a digital element:

What is ‘the library’ and what is its ‘reason for being’? – Tomorrows Libraries has done a good job of defining the requirement for community hubs

How can we increase the library’s relevance to younger generations?  We talked about this at the last quarterly – the teens are shunning the library.

What role should the library play in improving the digital literacy of our society? Do we just take it as a given that we are responsible?

Should we enforce self-check out usage in all libraries and abolish manned desks altogether?

Should we change our collection procurement policy so that electronic content is the predominant format, forcing people to shift?

Should we completely redevelop our online customer interfaces (and potentially change vendors) to meet the growing demand for online services?

Should we reduce our ‘holds’ program by restricting use or by enforcing digital content usage?  Should we redirect the funds that are spent on our escalating transport costs towards eContent?

How do we transition our workforce to meet changing customer demands in relation to technology education?

Should we continue to loan CDs, DVDs and other physical media? Should we continue to buy physical non-fiction titles?

How do we ensure that libraries remain worthy of funding? Do we need funds from non-traditional sources?

Do we know the answers to any of these questions?  I am sure that you all have your own views

Quite simply, these are decisions that need to be made, and there is a degree of pain associated with each of them.

Somebody loses. 

But there’s also pain if no decision is made. That pain may be further away, but it will come. And it will come in spades.

That’s a lot of food for thought, I am sure.

Let’s move on and take a look at the bottom part of the model

The operational level of the model establishes an iterative design thinking loop for delivering services and content to our customers.

  • The ‘Customer’ at the core
  • Identify the objective with that customer segment
  • Design the ‘service’ or ‘content’
  • Deliver via the 13 on-premise & remote channels
  • Capture data throughout – feed the information into our databases
  • Measure effectiveness against original objective
  • Iterate

The on-premises delivery channels…

P1: Internet Connectivity. This channel covers all customer-facing internet connectivity within libraries via fixed devices and wireless technology. The general intent of this channel is to improve the speed, capacity and reliability of internet connectivity across the SAPLN network over time.

P2: Devices and Hardware. This channel encompasses the provision of devices and hardware to customers in libraries, including desktop computers, borrowable devices and specialised hardware, such as 3D printers, virtual reality equipment and digital kiosks. The general intent of this channel is to provide centralised advice to libraries about digital devices and hardware, recognising that IT infrastructure is funded predominantly by local councils (thus creating some constraints for PLS).

P3: RFID Services. This channel encompasses all services and equipment associated with the rollout of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) across the SAPLN collection. The general intent of this channel is to leverage RFID more fully across the network, through the provision of support, standards and funding where appropriate, and to implement proximity-based services that permit customers to interact with the tags (eg. the ability to borrow books by scanning an RFID tag with a mobile phone).

P4: Digital Literacy Training. This channel recognises the need for additional digital literacy training, both for customers and SAPLN staff. The general intent of this channel is to equip public libraries with the necessary skills and experience, through ‘train the trainer’ initiatives, to undertake their own digital training delivery and to run their own digital activities and events.

P5: Content Digitisation. This channel recognises the needto support public libraries to scan, store and publish localised content, and to contribute to State and Federal holdings of digitised material. The general intent of this channel is to establish digitisation guidelines; provide centralised training and support; and to incubate new digitisation projects across the network.

The remote delivery channels…

R1: Websites. This channel encompasses the 80+ Sirsidynix ENTERPRISE catalogue websites that are operated across the network. The general intent of this channel is to refresh this suite of websites to improve the user experience (UX), enable localised content publishing, improve visibility in search engine results, and  make the websites accessible on all devices.

R2: App. This channel recognises the growing ‘app economy’ and the emergence of smartphones and mobile devices as the principal mechanism through which consumers are accessing the internet. The general intent of this channel is to implement a new fully-featured library app for the iOS and Android operating systems, to replace the existing BookMyne app. The new app will, in time, incorporate cutting edge technologies, including remote on-boarding, location-based services, near-field communications (NFC) proximity services and host card emulation (ie. the ability to use the device as a membership card).

R3: Knowledge and Content. This recognises the potential for a highly-curated, central repository of electronic content and resources – a Knowledge Centre – that can be utilised across the network by SAPLN staff and customers. The Knowledge Centre is to be integrated with SAPLN’s websites and app. Internally, the One Place intranet site has been established as a shared platform for publishing training material for use by staff members.

R4: eContent. This channel encompasses the licensed electronic content sources that SAPLN makes available to customers, including OverDrive eBooks, Zinio eMagazines and Lynda online courses, and how these services are integrated with delivery channels (ie. websites, app). The general intent is to consolidate the network’s eContent contracts; to ensure that eContent is discoverable and accessible from the main catalogue; and to facilitate the gradual shift from physical holdings to electronic holdings.

R5: Social. This channel encompasses the use of social media tools and websites by PLS and individual library services. The general intent of this channel is to educate libraries (and their councils) about the use of social and to help them leverage these tools to deliver content and to promote their services.

R6: Messaging and CRM. This channel encompasses all electronic messaging that is sent to customers by email, SMS and other means. The general intent of this channel is to leverage SAPLN’s existing customer data holdings and to utilise targeted messaging more widely, and to explore the possibilities associated with improved Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and tools.

R7: Search and Marketing. This channel encompasses all external online traffic sources to SAPLN’s web properties, most notably search engines. The general intent of this channel is to make SAPLN’s web properties more visible in search engines and to pilot new targeted marketing campaigns (eg. the ‘Tram is a Library’ initiative).

R8: B2B Remote Systems. This encompasses all internal SAPLN business-to-business systems that are accessed online, such as the Sirsidynix LMS,  BC Acquisitions procurement portal, and Help Desk System

Thank you – questions?

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