By Stephanie Nestor, Assistant Editor, Council Magazine

Councils around Australia are striving to develop more liveable cities through the integration of smart technologies to assist residents and council staff. For libraries, digital solutions are helping improve accessibility and community engagement by making sure all citizens can access valuable services and information.

Libraries play an important role in communities. They can be places to borrow items in a wide range of formats, study, get personalised tech help, listen to knowledgeable speakers, hear from local authors and learn new skills and connect with others – all of which is free for library members.

Building smart cities is about more than adopting new technology. It’s also important to make community centres such as library services more accessible and relevant for all residents.

Digital solutions can help to keep communities engaged with Council library services, with learning resources and online services available for residents no matter where they are.

Digital libraries

In the digital age, libraries offer a range of online services. For people who are too busy during the week or cannot attend libraries due to disability or health, online services are ways for residents to utilise libraries without needing to leave their homes.

Many councils are introducing apps to help residents access library services with ease. These free-to-use apps often feature borrowing services, ebooks, digital magazines, learning resources and other information.

With over 1,600 libraries across Australia, these community facilities provide many services and resources in their physical locations, but for residents that cannot access physical branches, digital platforms are a welcome addition.

In particular, ebooks offer people with a disability or learning differences the option to read a variety of content, with customisable font settings and audio options available. Digital libraries also offer training courses for skills development, including digital literacy for people of different ages and language backgrounds.

For one council in particular, setting up a digital library has helped ensure its library service is keeping up with the needs of its diverse community.

Utilise the library without leaving home

Logan City Council, in South East Queensland, operates nine libraries in its local government area, with more than one million people using the city’s library services yearly.

Determined to find new ways to engage the community, Council launched a free library app to ensure more people could take advantage of library resources, programs and services. Partnering with a digital solutions provider, Council launched the Logan Libraries App.

A free library membership is necessary to set up the app, but once it has been activated, there is no need for a resident to use their library membership card as there is a My Barcode feature, meaning users can manage their account, loans, and more through their devices instead.

Logan City’s free app provides access to half a million items from the library collections, which can all be accessed by residents on their smartphones or tablets. Residents can borrow and reserve items, book a free library computer, submit print jobs or find details about local library events. Users can even scan a book’s ISBN to check if it’s available in the Logan Libraries collection and reserve it on the spot.

For families, library accounts can be linked together to see when everyone’s items are due or when reserved items are ready for collection. The easy-to-use app provides library members with resources and services at their fingertips, offering a new way to engage with libraries in this digital age.

Building digital communities

Since it went live in April 2023, the community has responded favourably to the Logan Libraries app with a continuous uptake in downloads. A Logan City Council spokesperson said, “In today’s digital world, the app helps libraries be more responsive to community needs as people spend more time on their mobile devices.

“The app is a convenient, time-saving way for people on the go to interact with their library via their smartphones or tablets and to instantly do the things they like to do such as borrowing items, booking a free library computer, submitting a print job or getting details about free Logan Libraries’ events and activities.

The Council spokesperson said new features will be added to the app as they become available. “For example, book lovers or families wishing to encourage a love of reading with their young ones will soon be able to use a reading tracker. The tracker allows personal reading targets to be set and will let users know how long they read each day and how many books they started and finished reading.”

As Logan’s libraries continue to expand their physical collections, so too will their digital collections and resources grow, making life more convenient and knowledge more accessible for all residents.

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