How library tech is keeping up with the changing role of libraries in society

By Civica

Libraries are evolving fast to meet the changing demands of users – and here are three ways library technology can enable this change, according to software company Civica.

Libraries on our phones as well as in our neighbourhoods: as consumer behaviour changes, so too must library tech. Image: Canva

A library in Sydney’s sleepy northern beaches has been christened “the library that never sleeps”. Following a trial in 2022, Forestville Library has begun operating 24 hours every day to cater to young people, entrepreneurs, and shift workers, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.


“The face of a library user has changed. I myself am a perfect example of that. I moved to Singapore four years ago and I'm still a member of the City of Melbourne libraries. I use their ebooks everyday!” laughs Kelly Gibbs, Senior Product Manager at Civica.


Gibbs is a product manager for Spydus, a library services platform that libraries all over the world have used for decades. Decades ago, this meant supporting magnetic tape data storage systems – but times have changed and so have consumer expectations.


Today, Spydus helps library staff oversee every aspect of modern libraries, from backend applications and management of patron records to modern functions like event management and access to ebooks and streaming services, she explains.


Here are three ways library technologies are enabling the modern library of today.

1. Providing community services

Today, libraries play a critical role as a community space beyond just providing books, says Gibbs. Many libraries around the world provide additional community services, such as outreach for vulnerable populations and event programming for people to interact with one another.


Most recently, Forestville, which taps on Civica solutions, won a government award for its 24/7 project, which allows members access to a modern and flexible workspace outside of business hours. This provides more people with access to non-alcoholic nighttime activities, reflecting the changing desires of residents according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Kelly Gibbs, Senior Product Manager at Civica, shares how library tech has evolved to meet today's challenges.

“You may never read a book, but you might still be a legitimate user of your library because the scope of the services continues to evolve,” Gibbs says.


During Covid-19 for instance, one of Civica’s library partners actively reached out to seniors to ensure they weren’t alone during lockdown. Elsewhere, libraries in Scotland became an important “warm space” that people without access to heating could retreat to during the winter.


Civica supported libraries in providing home book deliveries so that people could continue accessing library resources, she explains. Libraries also partnered with Civica to revamp digital services during this period. For instance, the Australian Georges River Libraries took this opportunity to improve their online transactions and provide more digital content.

2. On-demand, personalised content online


Of course, libraries today have to provide personalised content in line with the expectations of digital natives. This is why Civica has expanded the scope of modules provided to libraries through Spydus, particularly around redesigning public facing applications.


“This year, we've put significant work into refreshing the user interface to meet the expectations of people in an increasingly digital world,” says Gibbs.


“We are all consuming a lot more digital media and the library has to keep up with that same change in consumer demand,” she says.


For instance, they are currently developing AI recommendation engines and have done beta testing of such engines with over 4,000 Civica staff. Personalisation is one of the key drivers behind the adoption of other popular digital applications, from Amazon’s shopping engine to Netflix’s film recommendations, she shares.


They also aim to provide access to different resource types through a unified search engine. This means that when a library user searches for a keyword of interest, the online service should surface any resource, across digital and physical resources as well as event recommendations.


"For decades, libraries have been shifting towards a hybrid model, but it was a gradual change. Covid accelerated a change that was already in motion. Now that we've rapidly transitioned to a more digital model post-Covid, I don't think it's going back,” she says.

3. Agile and responsive to user needs


Finally, libraries are going to become ever more agile and responsive to user needs.


Civica regularly liaises with user groups and industry stakeholders to understand the changing library landscape, including the Australian Library and Information Association, she says.

This agility is also increasingly reflected in the tech Spydus is adopting. Now, Spydus is underpinned by a SaaS model of software development, which enables Civica to respond to changes as quickly as possible.


Going cloud-native has enabled Civica to push out software updates very quickly, with no downtime during updates.


“We’ve seamlessly transitioned from a conventional on-premises service to a dynamic presence hosted on the public cloud. This strategic move not only elevates our technological prowess but also aligns us closely with the user experience offered by top-tier commercial platforms,” she shares.


This transformative shift empowers libraries to not only keep pace but emerge as formidable competitors in the era of modern streaming media.

In November 2023, Civica also announced that they have acquired cloud-based facilities management solution, booka, to better help local libraries, parks, and sporting facilities in optimising operations.