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Digital Strategy Becoming Digital by Design

Introduction

State Librarian and Chief Executive Officer Vicki McDonald AM

State Library of Queensland is a trusted place for people to learn about, reflect upon and contribute to the shared, constantly developing history of Queensland. State Library is committed to providing accessible and inclusive collections and services, embracing diversity, addressing disadvantage and enhancing life participation via strong community connections. 

State Library has embraced ‘digital’ - building digital collections and enabling access to them for use and re-use and integrating digital experiences into our events and exhibitions. State Library also takes a leading role in the open data movement and supports public libraries with digital programs and services. So, a digital strategy for State Library is not so much about transformation from analogue to digital – a seismic shift. Rather, it is about evolution from a first-generation digital library to a library that is digital by design. 

‘Analogue’ and ‘digital’ are not mutually exclusive or opposing forces. Our physical collections, onsite exhibitions, programs, services and extraordinary building are an integral part of the ‘digitalisation’ of the library. 

A library that is digital by design means that our intention is to think, act and be digital first - for digital experiences to be intrinsically part of the life of the library and the people who visit, use, collaborate and create with us. Now is the time to fully realise the opportunities of digital evolution. 

We will have succeeded when we are known as leaders in digital collecting, engagement, advocacy and empowerment for Queenslanders. However, the most telling success measure will be that we have no further need for a digital strategy; that the next step in our evolution will be simply a strategy for the future. 

Challenges and opportunities

We live in an environment of continuous social and technological change. Smart devices, virtual reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence and the internet of things have changed the way services are conceived, developed and delivered. The impact of the COVID-19  pandemic on our society cannot be understated, accelerating digital transformation of many areas of our lives. Only communities and organisations that continue to be responsive and agile will be able to innovate and thrive in this uncertain and volatile environment. 

There is now an expectation that digital products and services will be simple and intuitive and deliver personalised online experiences. However, there is a tension between this expectation and limiting legal, socio-environmental and technological factors. With more than half of the population living in regional, rural and remote areas, reliable and fast internet connectivity is problematic for many Queenslanders, creating a ‘digital divide’. Queensland also scores behind most other states in the Australian Digital Inclusion Index, calculated using measures of access to and affordability of the internet and the ability to use online tools and services.  

Preservation of digital collections is a significant challenge for libraries. Digital content is ubiquitous but more at risk of loss in the future than analogue materials. Preserving digital content is not just about preserving files, but also storing, providing ongoing access and being able to render in a usable way or emulate the original user experience. 

Becoming a library that is digital by design

Increase online access to our collections 

We will digitise more of our unique collections and increase collecting and providing access to born digital content. We will also proactively place content where people are looking for it – not requiring them to come to us, but for us to be where they are.  

We will champion open licensing, open data and open access enabling the widest possible use and re-use of content. We will use our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collections Commitments to guide access to and use of First Nations’ content. 

We will see collections as data – and collaborate closely with those who are using data, machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies to discover more about Queensland’s past, present and future to tell compelling stories. We will also expand and enrich the data we hold, ensuring that we provide datasets that are relevant to our users. 

Embed rich digital experiences in everything we do 

We will develop an online presence that is contemporary, responsive, personalised, and collaborative, and explore platforms and partnerships to extend and enhance digital experiences. 

We will devise and support frictionless digital services with the technology offer matched to user interests and abilities. 

We will seamlessly integrate physical and digital into our exhibitions and programs, extending the reach of our unique offerings and ensuring those who use the library onsite and online have stimulating and rewarding experiences. 

Strengthen digital inclusion and skills to support thriving communities 

We will develop programs and activities to encourage and support digital skills development – online volunteering, workshops and learning opportunities for all. 

We will advocate for the critical role of public libraries in developing and supporting digital inclusion to build strong, healthy and economically robust communities. 

We will grow our collaboration with the network of Queensland public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres and seek further partnerships with organisations who champion digital inclusion and skills development and are committed to working in and with communities to bring about change.

Enabling our digital strategy

Empowering technologies 

Agile, intuitive, robust, secure 

  • We will use digital technologies to improve all aspects of the work we do and the services we provide. 
  • We will ensure our ICT systems are optimised to support our vision and strategy.  
  • We will enable staff to explore, experiment, and develop capability and understanding of emerging digital technologies, and critically evaluate their potential use. 
  • We will commit resources and expertise to embed digital preservation practices, ensuring long term access to digital content which tells the story of Queensland. 

Digital capability and expertise 

A workforce that thinks ‘digitally’ 

  • We will develop our digital ecology to create opportunities for people across the library to lead digital initiatives and evolve our understanding of digital technologies. 
  • We will place existing work practices under the microscope, question long-held “truths,” and accept and encourage discomfort as we integrate digital into everything we do. 
  • We will grow a digitally fluent workforce, with capabilities and competencies to use, understand and adapt digital technologies; working collaboratively, solving problems and improving services. 
  • We will share digital skills and knowledge and learn from our professional colleagues, taking collective responsibility for our digital evolution. 

Strategy in action

Curriculum Connect

A new website connecting teachers, students and parents to curriculum linked resources.  

Digital Collections Catalyst

Historic map collections and machine learning models to develop a interactive 3D tool 'Mapping Future Brisbane'.

Widget creator

An online widget platform which allows State Library's content to be syndicated across websites in a seamless way.

Anzac Stories

Award winning voice activated app to commemorate Anzac Day online.

Experiments with linked data

Using data to make connections between Queensland women from 1939.

Twenty

An online exhibition celebrating contemporary Queensland photography.

3D printed Braille globe

3D capture techniques were used to create a 3D printable Braille globe from a fragile collection object.

Corley Explorer

An innovative, interactive and addictive way to explore photographs in the Frank and Eunice Corley Collection.

Spoken virtual tour

An self-guided online tour of the Spoken: Celebrating Queensland languages exhibition.

Summer Reading Club 2020

An interactive online experience for children to join, connect, and share their creativity.