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Brisbane City Council Libraries: Meeting evolving needs with library innovation
Brisbane City Council Libraries were already using RFID technology to free staff to focus on programming and high-value customer interactions, but they needed to meet the top community request – more library access.
The library system installed Bibliotheca’s remoteLocker outdoor solution at six library branches to provide 24/7 holds pickup for the Brisbane community. The lockers are wrapped with graphics that make them highly visible and extend the library brand.
Patrons can borrow up to 20 items at a time and the remoteLockers easily accommodate even the largest orders. Within just a few months of launch, the remoteLockers were full nearly every day.

Brisbane, the capital of Queensland and the third most populous city in Australia, is home to 2.6 million people. Brisbane City Council, with a population of over 1.2 million, provides library services to residents spread over 190 suburbs and 1,500 square kilometers through 33 individual library branches.

Trail-blazing technology

Brisbane is the second-largest local government area in the Southern Hemisphere, and in 2001, it became the first library service in the Southern Hemisphere to implement RFID. The technology was new at the time, but Brisbane City Council’s Library Service saw the potential RFID offered to improve both the customer and staff experience, through the delivery of customer self-service options while decreasing manual labour tasks for staff.

“We wanted customers to be able to borrow multiple items quickly, efficiently and independently,” says Lisa Lennon, Customer Experience and Technology Manager. “When we provide our customers with that kind of experience, our staff can utilise the time to host library programs and help customers with specialised needs. We also wanted to ensure our assets are secure. RFID gates prevent customers from accidentally leaving with items they haven’t checked out.”

Brisbane partnered with 3M (Bibliotheca acquired 3M library service in 2015) to pilot a conversion program at just one library branch. The project was a success, and today more than 90% of Brisbane City Council’s library transactions are handled via RFID without staff intervention. The library service uses Bibliotheca selfChecks for self-service borrowing, smartShelves for returns, RFID security gates, workstations, and the mobile DLA wand to manage inventory.

The RFID wands help us find items that are missing, mis-shelved, or in poor shape from overuse,” says Elizabeth Anderson, Systems Coordinator, Customer Experience and Technology Team. “The wands enable us to identify items that have been borrowed, say, 80 or more times selfChecks so we can inspect their condition. We don’t want our customers to have to borrow an item that’s been borrowed so many times it’s now looking worse for wear.”

Streamlining returns for customers and staff

In 2015, Brisbane again became an early adopter when it began installing Bibliotheca intelligent shelving, smartShelf, at select library branches. smartShelf uses RFID technology to turn library furniture into a convenient self-service return solution. Customers place items on the shelves, and technology automatically checks the items in, removing items from their accounts and making them immediately available for recirculation. Today, 29 of Brisbane’s library locations use smartShelves for quick and easy returns.

From the customer’s perspective, not only can they return their items quickly and easily, but they can also browse from the smartShelves, find what others have returned, and borrow them directly from the shelves. It increases circulation,” says Lennon.

Brisbane has selfCheck kiosks placed near their smartShelves to make it easy for customers to borrow items they find on the shelves. The recently released smartShelf borrow integrates a selfCheck with the smartShelf to make borrowing recently returned items even more seamless.

Today, over 95% of returns are received through RFID technology, freeing library staff to focus on programming and high-value face-to-face interactions with customers.

Expanding access through technology

The community greatly appreciates Brisbane’s focus on personal attention. The library service regularly receives 98% satisfaction ratings from annual customer feedback surveys. There is, however, one thing customers always request: increased access to library services.

“Some libraries are open four days a week and others seven days a week. If you’re a 9-5 worker, you may not be able to collect your hold during the week if your local library is closed. We talked about how we could increase the opportunity for customers to access our resources and decided that the remoteLocker outdoor was the perfect solution.”

Designed to extend the coverage and accessibility of the library, remoteLocker and remoteLocker outdoor offer convenient self-service holds pick-up, browsing and returns anywhere in the community. Included quickConnect software provides patrons easy access to account information, and available integration with uniFi+, Bibliotheca’s library communications solution, allows the remoteLocker screen to act as a digital billboard broadcasting important library information and messages even beyond library walls. The modular solution enables libraries to add as many lockers as they need to suit community needs.

In June 2023, Brisbane City Council installed remoteLocker outdoor at three branches and three more in January 2024. The lockers feature graphic wraps, making them easily visible from the road and showcasing the library brand.

“We’ve received some really lovely feedback about the lockers,” says Lennon. “On social media, we have many users posting about how they’ve missed collecting holds in the past because they couldn’t get to the library during open hours and how remoteLocker has solved this problem. People can pick up holds while they are out walking their dog in the early morning or on their way home from work at night.”

Brisbane customers can request up to 20 hold items, and Lennon says the remoteLockers have no problem accommodating large orders: “Some of those lockers are huge. We can put in magazines, audiobooks, physical books, DVDs, CDs – whatever customers want to borrow.

After just seven months, the lockers are so popular that they are full nearly every day.

We understand that there is a change in societal trends and an expectation that things are available 24/7. We used customer feedback plus the team to be strategic about what we can use to increase access for our customers to our collection. And those lockers have been fantastic!”


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