Free access to information and knowledge, for all, are the core of library activities. This work promotes freedom of opinion and enable participation in the democratic society.
As the information landscape changes and more of the information and knowledge becomes digital there is a need for libraries to change the way we work.
One of the main goals of the City of Helsingborg is to take advantage of the opportunities of digitalization. In 2015, the city won the prize “Sweden's IT municipality”. Of course, the library works strategically and operationally with this and wants to be part of this important work of the municipality.
In order for this to be possible, focus is needed on library development, further activities within continuing professional development as well as a change of attitude and working methods.
In 2015, a re-organization made it possible to form a new department focusing on the digital divide, named “Department Search”. Another department was formed to focus on the systems, web sites, social media, technological equipment and the access to media (both print and digital), named “Department DigBib/Media”. To succeed with the work of these two departments resources were reallocated and staff was trained as well as recruited to work in the digital arena.
During the last years, the Helsingborg public library has worked intensively with the digital divide to enable more citizens to be digitally included. The services includes providing access to digital information, access to technology, access to software and the premises as well as supervision and training performed by the library staff.
On a daily basis, the library meet large groups of digital divides as well as those who are born digital. The library services needs to meet the need of both groups. To further develop the digital work we strongly believe that libraries need to increase cooperation with other departments. In Helsingborg, the library, together with the city's Digitalization Department, has initiated a joint Digidel Center to collaborate on this.
The joint Digidel Center was opened at the Helsingborg City Library in February this year. The starting point of the work is to increase the digital skills of citizens, reduce the digital divide and develop access to the digital arena using suitable technology as well as new technology such as robots and 3D printers. The collaboration between Helsingborg's Library and the City's Digitalization Department provides a venue for interactions where visitors can share and learn from each other as well as get guidance and help from supervising staff. The Digidel Center gives different departments of the city the opportunity to meet citizens, test ideas and showcase digital activities/services in a showroom, but also take advantage of the site for Hackathon’s and other co-working activities for the development of the city's digital services.
In addition to the physically located Digidel Center at the City Library, we are also intensifying the library's work with Digidel in Helsingborg's various districts during 2018. It is being done in the form of library staff´s presence at other organization’s premises, such as senior citizens’ meeting places and recreational facilities, as well as through pop-up and the library bus presence in the areas. Digidel Center´s target groups are all citizens with an extra special focus on children and young adults, immigrants and senior citizens. The duration of the Digidel Center project is three years (2017- 2020) and is run within the regular budget for the library and the Digitalization Department. That means re-allocating funds within the regular budgets. The project group consists of a project manager and five other members. The project manager has regular meetings with a specific management group for the project, consisting of key digital managers within the municipality.
With the Library´s digital work, we strengthen the city and its citizens and ensure access to information for all. We also work strategically towards political decision makers as well as other departments within the municipality to ensure dissipation. The impact on our citizens has been positive and we can measure the progress with various UX tools.
We expect an even higher impact going forward. So far, a few cities in Sweden have made similar investments, but we believe that Helsingborg’s Digidelventure is unique in its kind because of the strong cooperation with other departments of the municipality.
Another unique factor for the Digidel Center project is our citizens involvement and impact on what we offer and showcase. We used our findings and insights from a service design project, “Customer Journey Mapping” when we designed the space and services and we have an ongoing dialog with our visitors.
One of our key sustainability factors are the collaboration with other departments. Another factor is that we don´t have additional funding. We run the Digidel Center project within the regular budget for the library and the Digitalization Department.
This project is in line with the new (autumn 2018) national initiative on digital inclusion for all citizens where the Swedish government, over a period of 3 years, are investing, in the form of extra funding, into the public libraries digital development.
All public libraries are eligible to apply for this extra funding. This has led to, almost weekly, study visits from other public libraries from all over Sweden to our Digidel Center.