We live in a world where we place less and less value on possessions. Think of streaming platforms, rental scooters and shared cars. A concept that was already applied by libraries more than a century ago in lending books. But you can borrow more than one book from a library these days. Libraries want to take back that innovative and social role and become an essential player in the knowledge development of society. To support lifelong learning. For many libraries it is still a challenge to give the right interpretation to this digitally. Together with the AanZet Library, we are changing that!
‘All Dutch people start a successful personal development at the library.’ That is the dream of the AanZet Library. The dot on the horizon. With 30 branches in and around the Drechtsteden, they want to continue to play their socially relevant role. The focus is not on the book, but on knowledge. To achieve that goal, AanZet was looking for a digital partner in 2018, someone who thinks alongside the digital strategy and dares to challenge the status quo. Enter Hoppinger!
Together with the AanZet steering committee, we formed a multidisciplinary team, consisting of the management, specialists from various departments and of course strategists, designers and technicians from Hoppinger. Our starting point was a target group survey. During interviews we did indeed receive confirmation that the library is still mainly seen as a place to borrow books. But we also found an underlying desire: visitors want to develop themselves, stay up-to-date, discover something new and come into contact with others.
We translated those jobs to be done into the ultimate goal: the 'virtual location'. A platform for knowledge development, where supply and demand are brought together and content is created for and by residents. This leads to a valuable community in which the library is not so much an organiser, but more of a director. The physical library already facilitates that; still digital. In this way we ensure that online and offline overlap. Great plan, but first a few steps back to basics.
The previous AanZet website worked with a fixed template and was mainly based on the classic lending model. The user experience also left a lot to be desired. This did not match AanZet's ambitions. That is why we have built a modern and future-proof architecture that meets the current requirements of AanZet and is completely ready for future wishes and adjustments. The centerpiece of that architecture is the new platform. On it, visitors will find the collection, different activities and information about the various locations. Indeed, the library of the future is not only about borrowing books, a range of different activities hold a prominent role on the website.
The headless Drupal website is super fast (try it) thanks to the frontend in TypeScript and React, safe and user-friendly for both the user and the administrator of the content. With the use of structured data, editors can easily publish the activities, and the events are easy to find for visitors in Google. Powerful OData APIs link the website to various data sources. For example, the activities are not only loaded onto the website, but they are also shown on the narrowcasting screens in the libraries. In the future, these APIs will also allow us to seamlessly integrate other components, such as an event ticketing system. The flexible, layered architecture is ready.
With the new platform, we have laid a foundation for realising the joint ambition of the 30 regional AanZet libraries. On the way to 'the library of the future', in which the (online) accessibility of knowledge and experience is central instead of the books. Because the platform is scalable, we can continue to develop both the user experience and the service on the basis of user insights. The libraries do this with combined forces and budget. The platform also links up with the centralised library services provided by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, for example.
In the first year we got 50% more visitors to the website. And the website poll showed that 75% now see the library as a place for more than just books!
- Ronald Capelle, Program Manager Digital
On to the second horizon
The first step has been taken. On to the next step in our long-term vision! That is: increasing the value of the AanZet platform even further by activating the community. We achieve this by increasing engagement. After all, the value of libraries, online and offline, increases as the number of active users increases. This is called a network effect. So we make the existing content easier to find for users and at the same time it is important that users actively contribute to attract new users, just like with social media. In the coming period we will continuously experiment to arrive at a good mix of content, discovery and encounter. In this way we are increasingly giving shape to the 'virtual establishment'.
Digital revolution in library land
In the meantime, we want to further accelerate this movement by seeking out cooperation with other libraries and expanding (content) partnerships, both nationally and regionally. Other public libraries will join the platform to forge a digital alliance. In a digital world that innovates so quickly, collaboration is needed to remain relevant for the user and to facilitate lifelong learning. And yet every library retains the freedom to make and further develop additional choices according to its own insight and regional interests. Because the libraries benefit from joint investments, we can realise the ambition of a virtual library for the whole of the Netherlands. De Nieuwe Bibliotheek Almere was the first library to join the initiative! De Nieuwe Bibliotheek has also had its own Virtual Library Platform since the 1st September 2021. Read more about our digital revolution here!
- The first year after launch, the number of visits increased by 50% and that number is still rising!
- At the end of 2020, 89% of website visitors indicated that the Aanzet Library is a place where they develop personally
- Since the start of the YouTube channel AanZet Live in 2020, more than 6,000 people have already participated in online activities
- 13% of members now use e-books and audiobooks (target was 10%!)