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Friday, 1 June 2012

1 #blogjune

(So I'm going to try this Blog Every Day of June thing. One reason I haven't done it in the past is the difficulty of coming up with a topic every day, so I'm going to try a bit of free association based on the day of the month in the context of libraries. We'll see how long I last.)

Today the first thing I think of associated with "one" is my-place-of-work's "One Library" philosophy. That is, we're five physical branches, but all one system. The idea of the philosophy is to create consistency. This makes managing the place easier - you only need to come up with one set of rules - and it's a lot clearer for users. They can use any branch(es) they like and expect the same rules to apply at each one.

Of course one of my mottoes is "It's Not That Simple". One size doesn't fit all - branches do tend to have their unique usergroups, who have different needs. And students get very attached to "their" library branch and want it personalised to their needs. Sometimes it's as obvious as different term times, so opening hours have to differ. Some disciplines have lots of group work while others need much more individual study space. Many disciplines have collections which can't quite be boxed into the way the main collection is classified/stored/made available.

There are cultural differences too, and individual differences. Some people right now need to be in a single-story building to feel safe from earthquakes. Some complain the building's too hot, others complain it's too cold. Some people are most comfortable talking face-to-face, others much prefer chatting online. Some people need to be shown exactly how to find something, some people need to be allowed to poke at it on their own. The more options we can provide, the more users we can support.

Of course again we have (increasingly) limited time and resources to do this with, so it's a tradeoff. How many options and how much personalisation can we afford without sacrificing consistency of quality?