Summary: "An introduction to the principles of the Idea Store concept, and the market research which informed its development in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The presentation will explain the nature of partnership working which is central to the achievement of the strategy and will provide the latest information on this unique strategy’s successful implementation."
Speaker: Heather Wills, Idea Store Programme Director, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, England
Why Idea Stores? Well, in the Borough of Tower Hamlets:
• 31% of the population have access to the Internet
• Fewer than 20% use their local Library
• Fewer than 5% use adult education services
• 35% have basic adult literacy needs
• 30% of the population are Bangladeshi
• 50% are part of a visible minority
Intensive marketing research was undertaken to try to connect some of the dots here. Results showed that:
• 98% considered libraries to be important
• Many noted that the local libraries were old-fashioned, in need of investment and updating, or were located far from home/work
• Many commented that they would visit libraries if they could combine Library visits with other activities – i.e. if the Library was on a "high street" where the shops were.
Lessons to be learned:
- Location is key!!!!
- Barriers to learning include: opening hours, psychological barriers, image barriers….
- Libraries have to be designed around modern lifestyles if they hope to stay relevant
- Attract youth
- Focus on books but also invest heavily in IT
- Integrate related activities seamlessly
They are places that support libraries, learning (courses), exhibits and public performances, a café, a daycare (esp. for parents who attend courses), study support, and technology services. They have a strong, branded image (colours, logo, etc.) They involve partnerships (between libraries and adult education, local colleges and universities, and the volunteer sector). They are located on high streets, often near a local supermarket (“the supermarkets have already done the math” and people are coming to these locations).
Idea Stores promote employability, support the image of the Borough as a good place to live and work, boost local cultural and creative economies and combat social exclusion and promote a sense community.
Two interesting points:
- Opening hours are 9-9 Monday – Thursday, 9-6 Friday, 9-5 Saturday and either 10-4, 11-5, or 12-6 Sunday depending on local shop hours.
- In the UK, the Library serves all those who live, work or study in the Borough, and when Heather spoke about workers, she especially mentioned that the libraries were built with special attention to the needs of workers in the neighbourhoods (eg. Canary Wharf, many businesses and high-end sectors now, but Idea Stores are trying to primarily serve secretaries and cleaners in companies… not the executives).
- Learning from retail
- Extensive partnerships
- Integration of services
- Extensive and continuing consultations
- Marketing and brand development
- Visits to the libraries borough-wide increased 141% since 2001
- PC access averages at 60% with a peak of 90% capacity!
Can you learn from retail NOT from municipal service structures?