15/07/2016 - Reading Libraries - Public Service Access Project

Reading Borough Council embarked on its Phase 1 libraries transformation project during which it successfully achieved service improvements and additional benefits for library services users.

The library service in Reading currently includes:

- 7 public libraries – Reading Central and 6 branches: Battle, Caversham,   Palmer Park, Southcote,  Tilehurst and Whitley  
- a mobile service for the elderly and housebound based from Tilehurst Library
- a toy library located in Southcote Library

In Reading, the library service works as a cohesive whole, in that joining at one branch gives members the ability to borrow and return books at any branch. Books can be requested and renewed online 24/7 via the library website, books can be requested from any branch and delivered to any branch for collection.

As the hub of the network, and due to its central location, Central Library receives the greatest number of visits and contains the greatest number of books and houses a number of specialist services which are not available in the branches, such as vocal scores, play sets, and the local history collection. It has reserve stocks which include a large reference and newspaper reserve. It also holds the largest collection of books in community languages, both in terms of number of volumes and number of languages.

Central Library, Abbey Square, Reading
Central Library, Abbey Square, Reading, RG1 3BQ

Changes at Reading Central Library

The Central Library offering a wide range of services to a diverse group of users and the addition of partners creates a vibrant and multi-functional community space, with the added benefit of employment support. Refurbishment work to the third floor of the library transformed the Community Hub to improve digital inclusion and channel shift and was officially launched in early summer during 2015. 

The new Elevate Reading service was co-located in Reading’s new community and learning hub at Reading Central library. The new service offer is provided by partners such as Adviza, Reading UK CIC, Jobcentre Plus, New Directions – Reading’s Adult Learning service and Reading Voluntary Action.

Extending the wireless provision throughout the building using Insight Media’s WAC (Wireless Access Control) solution offered improved Wi-Fi access for customers, staff and the partner organisations using the community hub.  

Time to Upgrade Systems

As part of the Council’s transformation programme to deliver better services and make efficiency savings, it was also committed to reviewing library services in Reading. Whilst there is a need to make such savings the council also wanted to create a more modern and fit-for-purpose library service, well-used by residents because it provides easier access to the services they require. The council’s digital channel strategy helped them to consider their options and deliver more effective library services to  customers.

A review within Reading ICT identified a number of systems, servers and IT equipment used by the library service which were approaching either end of live or running out of support due to their age.  

The Council’s Corporate IT team were tasked to investigate and explore the options for upgrading its ICT, and to scope the requirements to provide potential future solutions that would help improve digital inclusion and offer enhanced services for its customers.

Peoples Network (PN) Managed Service

Reading Borough Council worked closely with Insight Media (their current provider of the iCAM PC booking, print management and public wireless solutions) to assess the requirements, and come up with an improved delivery model that would achieve the library service core objectives and also provide an up-to-date PC environment and better user experience for its customers. 

Insight Media were given the responsibility to manage and coordinate the delivery of the PN project and undertook various tasks in the preparation and rollout of the new solution. A tailored solution designed for Reading Libraries was provided by Insight Media in the form of its PN Managed Services to fulfil the requirements of service delivery and support.

This involved the preparation and imaging of PCs, installations, testing, pilot site signoff and an efficient deployment and rollout programme to the relevant library sites.   At the same time the libraries also changed to a new Smoothwall web filtering solution for the public PCs which was provided by Insight Media and implemented on the council network.

Insight Media’s provision of the Peoples Network PC Refresh programme - combined with the hosting services - offered the libraries a total PC estate refresh together with updates, additional functionality and services incorporating filtering, critical updates, anti-virus and enhanced support.

The rollout of a new PN build and image coincided with the hardware / system unit refresh and necessitated the creation of a new build / image to the customer’s requirements including all the relevant software for both the staff and public computers using the iCAM applications.

The initial Reading Borough Council requirements for the design of a new Library Public Access Service included the following:

- A Windows 7 operating system
- Office 2013 software
- 65 x TFT Screens for all public facing terminals
- Support multiple Internet browsers - Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome
- Audio Support for Headphones
- Printing support (chargeable)
- USB functionality to give customers the ability to use USB devices
- Website filtering and control
- 67 x Dell Desktop Machines with Microsoft Windows 7 Pro and licences for public access
- 10 x Dell Desktop Machines with Microsoft Windows 7 Pro and licences for staff use
- To be able to interact seamlessly with the current Library Management System and iCAM

ICT equipment in use (at Central)
ICT equipment in use (at Central)

“It was important for Reading Council to work with an experienced and flexible IT partner like Insight Media, who fully understood Readings IT and Libraries requirements along with the importance of the Peoples’ Network services for public users and their expectations and the roles of library staff. Insight Media came up with the right solution that allowed us to continue with Reading Council’s key objectives in improving key public services for our customers and more efficient self-service – thus supporting our digital inclusion aspirations.  Jamie Kennedy, IT Project Manager

Database Server Hosting

The SQL Server and ICAM Central Database for Reading Libraries resides in Insight Media’s datacentre and incorporates Site Housing, SQL Licence, Installation, Configuration, Housekeeping, Support and Maintenance. Insight Media set up the SQL environment in advance and ensured that the appropriate iCAM links were tested and signed off prior to going live.  In addition to the iCAM SQL server the public wireless solutions are also hosted by Insight Media.  

Hosting Benefits

Insight Media’s solutions offered the following additional benefits for Reading’s hosted services:

- Control and Monitoring of  servers
- Ensuring any problems are highlighted immediately
- High priority on any server issues
- Immediate response to any concerns / issues relating to the service
- Ensuring potential problems are dealt with quickly
- Managing more efficiently with speedier fixes and resolution (ensures minimum service disruption)
- Server upgrades – Controlled and managed ensuring latest server software versions are applied when appropriate.
- Cost effective and sustainable
- Quality support services

Overview of Readings PN Upgrade

Reading Borough Council and the Library Service adhered to following key objectives for their new PN environment: 

- Microsoft Windows based solution was considered the best cost benefit option.
- To utilise all the benefits of a windows based systems including USB device utilisation, Audio functionality, Microsoft Office software and system recovery enhanced software.
- Desktop security supported by the use of an Antivirus solution and a system recovery software called Deepfreeze.
- Web content filtering and monitoring delivered via a new Smoothwall device.
- The solution included the latest versions of Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer.
- When client sessions are terminated browsers close, and each session’s internet history log iswiped by the system using CC Cleaner.
- The solution included the latest version of Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash Player and Java Virtual Machine. Updates to these are handled by the support process.
- The solution uses the current links and connectivity. All Microsoft updates and hotfixes aredealt with by Insight Media.
- Hosting for the solution is provided for, and supported by, Insight Media.
- Insight Media deploy an annual refresh of PC images across the library estate which includes updating third party software - subject to third party documentation and a change request funded by RBC.

Insight Media a major supplier of PC Bookings, Print Management and Public Wireless solutions to libraries were pleased to offer assistance in providing its iCAM PC Management Solutions to help and support Reading Borough Council and Library Service through their channel strategy. The newly refreshed solution offers Reading Libraries and its customers up-to-date and modern Public Access facilities that will continue to be updated periodically in-line with new releases of desktop software versions and maintaining and supporting anti-virus protection.    

Cllr Paul Gittings, Reading Lead Member for Culture, Sport and Consumer Services, said:

“I’m delighted to hear we have updated our computer facilities across all Reading libraries. The Council is committed to promoting digital inclusion for those who don’t have easy access to computers and the internet and I hope many people will benefit from the new facilities.”

Cllr Jan Gavin, Lead Member for ICT, said:

“It is fantastic news our libraries now have new computers. I’m sure many people will benefit from this upgrade and it will be a big help towards closing the digital divide in Reading.

“I’d encourage people who want to brush up on their computer skills to come along to one of the Get On-line Reading sessions available at Central and Battle libraries and make the most of the new facilities.”

Customers visiting the libraries can expect to find surroundings that are inviting and interesting, where the public can make the most of traditional library services alongside utilising modern technologies to enable them to access an array of services online. Providing the very best of local desktop environments and offering Internet access along with supporting customers in bringing their own devices, and using the Reading Libraries wireless hotspots.

Insight Media believes this service model clearly demonstrates the effective good use of technology in supporting the council’s IT and Libraries.  Reading Libraries certainly offer a wide range of services that will be continuously updated and refreshed along with providing exciting and vibrant places for both customers and c and library staff.    

If you would like more information on Insight Media’s Managed Services or any other products then please contact us on:

Tel: 0844 335 6350
Email: info@insight-media.co.uk