Update: Edinburgh City Council have now responded to DIGIT. Quotes below.
Edinburgh’s position as one of Europe’s leading capital’s of culture has been let down by the startling revelation that readers across the city have struggled to use its libraries for the last six months or more.
As the Fringe and Book Festivals wind down, readers have reported that failures in two IT systems core to Edinburgh’s libraries have left them empty-handed and disappointed.
Conservative councillor for Colinton and Fairmilehead Jason Rust questioned the IT problems at a recent council meeting. He said: “It seems quite incredible when libraries are an important council service and a real community facility that there has been such a basic problem in cataloguing and reserving books. You could understand it if the system was coming to the end of its life, but this is the introduction of new IT.”
One of the problematic systems is a new IT infrastructure used by the city’s libraries, released in February this year.
DIGIT reached out to a spokesperson, who confirmed that the system has left library staff unable to order, catalogue or reserve the 78,898 items which were added to the city’s library stocks last year. Four out of the city’s 34 self-service kiosks are also currently unavailable, and there are no plans to repair them.
A Council spokesperson said: “The introduction of a new ICT system to Edinburgh Libraries has affected the service’s reservation and stocking systems, and we are working closely with the ICT service suppliers to minimise the impact on the public. Suppliers are also assisting the Council to accelerate the delivery of stock and initial batches of new stock will begin to arrive in libraries in the coming weeks.”
The same spokesperson clarified that both the self-service kiosk and stock issues were compounded by a unified drive to update the city’s core library infrastructure with a technology called Open Plus, which could help to reduce work time when sorting books, or mean that libraries can run entirely without staff.
“As part of plans to modernise and refresh the libraries estate, the Council is currently investigating Open Plus technology, which would include the maintenance of self-service kiosks. In the interim, kiosks which are no longer working will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and repaired where possible.”
A different Council spokesperson also told DIGIT: “Many kiosks are beyond end of life and the service would wish to refresh and modernise the estate, in line with the development of Open Plus technology. Work is underway to scope out Open Plus technology and £350k has been allocated to take this work forward.”