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Councils fall short on online library renewals



New Socitm survey highlights integration problems between websites and third party systems

Poor integration between council websites and third party library systems are continuing to make things difficult for people trying to use the services online, according to the latest Better connected survey by Socitm.

The public sector IT association said the problem it identified in its 2012 survey is far from being solved.

It carried out the survey by exploring whether it is easy to find and complete the way to renew a library book on a council website. The task report says a big shortcoming was on the question 'Were all the relevant pieces of information/pages for this task linked together to make a smooth, coherent journey?', where the proportion of sites succeeding was down from 49% in the previous survey to 34% this time around.

Reviewers reported that: “Taking the ‘renew library books’ link from the main council site (into the third party system) immediately changes the site ‘look and feel’, confusing the user.”

Poor positioning

They said that many library systems present very busy home pages with poor positioning and promotion of the renewal task. Key features, such as log-in fields, were often not immediately visible, sometimes featured only as a small link to ‘log-in’ tucked away in a corner.

There were also complaints about the use of default labels provided by the system suppliers for log-in. A field that should be described straightforwardly as ‘library card number’ was frequently and confusingly termed ‘borrower ID’, ‘borrower number’, ‘user ID’ or ‘library barcode’.

The reviewers found that even basic links between the third party system and the council’s library web pages were often found to be overlooked, and in many cases there was no direct link back once inside the library system. This is a real barrier if key information, such as a schedule of fines, can only be found on the council website.

On a more positive note, Socitm said that 45% of English and Welsh councils were rated as providing a good or very good experience. Among those performing particularly well on the task were East Riding of Yorkshire, East Sussex, West Sussex, Surrey, North Lincolnshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

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