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Library Out Loud

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by

Helen MacDonald

on 10 March 2014

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Transcript of Library Out Loud

Glasgow Women's Library
Library Out Loud,
Glasgow Women’s Library is a vibrant information hub housing a lending library, archive collections and contemporary and historical artefacts that celebrate the lives, histories and achievements of women.
We also support thousands of women across Scotland every year to improve their lives through our services and programmes, including support and activities that tackle a wide range of issues from poverty and women’s health, sexuality and surviving violence.
Learning is at the heart of what we do: we deliver over 200 innovative events and activities across Scotland every year, from film screenings to guided walks and core programmes including our Adult Literacy and Numeracy and Black and Minority Ethnic Women’s Projects.
Our projects are funded from different sources, and each funder requires different information about the services we provide and the users we work with.
Since 2010, we've been recording monitoring and evaluation data about our events and activities in a system based on the open source client relationship management software CiviCRM.
This system,
allows us to record both anonymous equal opportunities data and user-related attendance information and feedback.
However, while it was simple enough for us to add data to the system, we found that the inbuilt reporting was not suitable for our needs, and we often found ourselves exporting data to be processed in Excel spreadsheets.
We were also not taking advantage of the inbuilt features of CiviCRM that would allow us to communicate more effectively with our users based on their interests and the events they attended at GWL.
The Make:IT:Happen Organisational Development fund gave us the opportunity to redevelop Library Out Loud, adding new reporting elements and streamlining the way we monitor how users access and engage with the Library.
The first stage was to take a step back from how we currently used CiviCRM, and look at what we needed (and wanted!) our system to do for us.
We have extensive
collections
that have been built from donations of
books
and
archive materials
from Library users. We have Library
borrowers
who access the lending library collection, and library users who attend
events
. We have
learners
who come to the Library for
support
with their literacy skills, and
volunteers
who are helping us to explore the history of
Scotland
's women. (Sometimes these are the same people). Our
funders
range from the Scottish Government, local councils, Lottery fund distributors
*
and charitable trusts, while we also receive support from
Friends
, sponsors of our 'Women on the Shelf' initiative and
more
.
*
Thanks Amb:IT:ion!
Library Out Loud needed to do more than record this information - it needed to see where and how this information connected.
Stage 2 involved revising our existing systems, adding new custom activities that relate to the way we work with users and other organisations, and working with our consultants to fix our reporting problems and streamline our systems.
Our consultants, Fuzion, who are based in New Zealand*, created new reports, searches and views that allowed us to crunch the numbers on our custom quantitative data and see how individuals and organisations engage and interact with the Library.
(Because Fuzion are committed to open source software, and their developers are involved in the development of CiviCRM, the improvements they've made for us will eventually be worked into the main release of the CiviCRM software.)
*Thanks Skype!
The final stage was to ensure all of our staff and volunteers are trained and confident in using Library Out Loud to enter data, format reports, and explore the qualitative data.
This stage is ongoing, particularly as we've only started to gather some of the data that relates to how people engage with GWL.
However, we're already seeing the benefits: we were able to pull together information about everyone who'd attended events related to our 21 Revolutions project over the past two years and contact them about our Kickstarter campaign to publish the 21 Revolutions book and, following the success of the campaign, invite them to the book launch.
Developing a customised CRM (open source or otherwise) is never completely straightforward, so here are a few of the things we learnt:
Work out what you need before you start building: Most of the problems we had arose from problems with the original system that couldn't be changed without risking data loss.
Avoid feature creep: It's tempting to say that CiviCRM can do anything, particularly in conjuction with Drupal, the powerful content management system we chose to run CiviCRM on - but that doesn't mean it needs to do everything, or that it's more efficient.
Join the development community: Open source software, particularly when as widely used as CiviCRM, will often have an active development community that will have encountered the problems you face before, or are willing to help you solve them (that's how we found our consultants).
And finally: If you're working with consultants on the other side of the world, find a good time zone converter.
The Make:IT:Happen Organisational Development Fund allowed us to take a usable but ultimately frustrating monitoring system and redevelop it into a integrated, efficient and easy-to-use CRM. Library Out Loud now gives us in-depth reporting on both qualitative and quantitative data, and allows us to evaluate and learn from the ways in which people engage with the Library.
The experience and expertise we've gained in developing this system will allow Library Out Loud to grow alongside Glasgow Women's Library. We'll also be able to share our expertise, and offer Library Out Loud as a service for Arts, Equalities and Third Sector organisations across Scotland as part of our Social Enterprise activities.
Library Out Loud
Glasgow Women's Library would like to thank Amb:IT:ion Scotland and the Make:IT:Happen fund for their support.
Full transcript