Kingston Library open library solution

Open Library Day proves FlexABLE

Open libraries have been creating a bit of a buzz recently and following Milton Keynes Libraries recent installation of a self-service solution at their Kingston Library they were keen to share their experience.

In conjunction with their supplier, 2CQR, Milton Keynes Libraries held an, appropriately named, Open Day for those interested in looking at and finding out more about their new open libraries solution, Libraries Xtra.

Through personal contacts and a little bit of promotion Milton Keynes management brought together over 30 library professionals representing 11 authorities, for the day.


The Milton Keynes opportunity

Following the welcome to Kingston Library, Helen Bowlt, Libraries Manager and Charlotte Keating, Library Systems Officer outlined the background to the decision to look at a self-service solution in Milton Keynes.

From the town’s beginning in 1967, with it’s reputation for concrete cows, through the more exciting notorieties; home of the Open University, developing the first driverless pod and now its 50 year anniversary, the town and its council has a reputation for brave decisions.

Running ten libraries, including one mobile and a schools library service, the council has always seen the libraries as one of it’s most visible assets and has positioned them to support the major communities in the borough.

Despite wishing to maintain all the library services, council cuts have forced reduction in both staffing and opening times. Sharing the ways both the council and the local communities have helped support the libraries Helen and Charlotte explained they were still left with budget issues. Following a demonstration of the benefits of open libraries it was decided to trial a system at Kingston.

Further research and fund raising led them to hold a suppliers day. Understanding options available helped create a comprehensive tender.


Helen Bowlt, Libraries Manager
Charlotte Keating, Library Systems Officer

With 2CQR selected as the supplier, a programme of site surveys, risk assessments, consultations and issue analysis was followed by installation. With only one week closure it was then decided to have a soft launch with three month trial. Staff were introduced to the system, marketing was prepared and a new service; Libraries Xtra was born. Charlotte took the audience through the customer feedback and the variety of issues they met…and overcame. The system is working well and although not suitable for all their libraries, Milton Keynes are already planning extending the hours at Kingston and looking to introduce Libraries Xtra in other libraries.


The FlexABLE solution

Tony Halford, 2CQR software specialist then took the meeting through the nuts and bolts, or rather the hard and software of the chosen solution.

2CQR’s Tony Halford presenting FlexABLE library solutions

He punctuated the presentation with live demonstrations of the system elements. Resetting the system Tony enabled the audience to experience the whole process, from the customer’s process needed to access the unstaffed library, use of the self-service kiosks to the audio for the closing announcements and exiting. It was also important that the audience could see the processes around the staff and management control that the system enables.

Tony was keen to emphasise that the 2CQR FlexABLE system is a genuinely flexible solution which gives staff total control;

  • Allows Scheduling of Opening times; Staffed, Unstaffed and Closed Periods.
  • Authenticates Users through the LMS.
  • Can Control, Access Doors, Lighting, Intruder Alarm, Heating and PCs (Kiosks, etc).
  • Displays and Records CCTV video
  • Logs Events
  • Generates Statistical Reports

Rounding off his presentation Tony was able to answer questions from the floor, both general and others dealing with specific software requirements or building arrangements problems.

Another experience

Following lunch there was an interesting presentation by Marco Akkanen, ICT Manager for Lahti City Libraries. Marco gave a comprehensive presentation showing how the self-service, open library solution was introduced and works in Lahti, the capital of the Päijänne Tavastia region in Finland. It was fascinating to hear the similarities in budget issues, customer and staff desires and experiences, both good and bad that libraries in different countries had experienced.

The day finished with informal networking between the participants; librarians, library business, IT and service managers, 2CQR staff and the Milton Keynes organisers.

All agreed the day had provided much food for thought and was an excellent introduction to open, FlexABLE and Xtra Library opportunities.