An analysis of digital safety net and service costing for public libraries

Asim Qayyum (Principal Investigator)
Anita Dewi (Co-Investigator)
Arif Khan (Research Assistant)

Public libraries in the Australian Capital Territory (Libraries ACT) are increasingly expected to provide both physical and digital safety net and training for the most vulnerable community members. These expectations are beyond their core information functions and sometimes lacks recognition and resource support for the frontline staff. This service diversity has also resulted in an impression that different government agencies somewhat overly rely on and divert their service delivery costs to Libraries ACT.

In response to the above, this project is conducted with the following objectives to achieve:

  • To measure the impact of enhanced digital and literacy service support to the community on library staff’s time for online services offered by other online government services from federal and Territory/State governments.  
  • To measure the time spent by public library staff in supporting community members in accessing other services and benefits received by them. 
  • To measure and quantify staff’s service, role and commitments to any occupational incidents and situations that may arise due to the enhanced library services and measure their time and severity. These occupational incidents will include their dealing with clients who become angry or verbally abusive at times.   
  • To identify the opportunities that exist for public libraries in taking up a leadership role in service delivery. 

Employing a mixed-methods approach, data will be collected through interviews, questionnaires, and a diary study. Different participant groups will be involved, including library branch managers/supervisors, frontline staff, administration staff, and clients. The majority data collection will be done in the ACT, with a small-scale comparative study taking place in Libraries ACT’s sister libraries, namely Yarra Plenty Library (YPL) Melbourne and Libraries Tasmania.

It is expected that the research findings will support Libraries ACT in taking up a community leadership role where digital inclusion is sustained, particularly in service policy development and planning. Better service delivery is expected to minimise digital divide, especially for the most vulnerable community members.

Contact: Asim Qayyum

Phone: +61 2 6933 2186