ALICE: re-imagining the digital future of public libraries

Digital Public LibraryAt State Library of Queensland we set out to research what a public library could be in the virtual realm.  We asked ourselves what could a digital public library be in 2020 and how could we completely re-imagine how users, creators, and content connect.

We agreed that the role of public libraries is about connection.  Connecting people to each other, connecting people to content and information and also connecting people to their local place and we wanted to explore how this could be achieved in the virtual realm.

What did we do?

We talked to people. We talked to authors, publishers, digital publishers, a copyright collecting agency, videographers, library users, regional libraries, business and technologists.  And we asked them what was frustrating about the current environment and what they wished was available. And here is what we found.

  • People feel overwhelmed by the amount of content available, so clear choices for content, based on the users’ interests, was a wish.
  • People find the current offering of digital content through libraries fragmented and confusing.
  • Users, authors, publishers, business and technologists are not aware of the information that can be accessed from either their local public library or the State Library, and
  • Libraries are not the first option for seeking information or digital content.

Liz McGettigan  and the Library Global Excellence Tour 2017

Creators also reported their main publishing priorities are distribution and creative control. Demand for trusted author services at every stage, from book production to distribution and discovery, exists, especially for the new and more independent authors.  The rise of self- publishing continues but trusted distribution models remain a challenge.

We then imagined a solution.

What we imagined was ALICE.

Digital Public LibraryALICE is not a library management system to sort and loan stuff! ALICE is a new digital library model that is a “user centric aggregator of content” and a “trusted author and information service” to support users, local authors and creators.

It also turns the concept of a library being about a curated collection on its head. ALICE is about you, the user, the author, the editor, the documentary film maker, the music maker.

It connects you to the aggregated content that will be of interest wherever it is, both global and local, acting both as a distributor of content and aggregator based on your profile and preferences. It connects you to the deeply local around your interests and where you live, and that can be content, events or people.

It is deeply personal. We have seen the rise of personalisation across retail, and content streaming services like Netflix and this is now an expectation of users across the globe and libraries must respond to this development.

A digital public library for you

Digital Public LibraryWe sought commercial and development partners to develop this personalised digital library piece of technology and we are now actively working to make ALICE a reality.

So ALICE, meet LUCI: the Library Universal Content Integrator: realising a vision to connect people to their local library, their local community, and socially to each other through a personalised library service.

Yes, a digital public library that is focused on you.


Jane Cowell is the executive director, engagement and partnerships, at the State Library of Queensland and is speaking at the Library Global Excellence Tour next week in London (11 September), Glasgow (12) and Cardiff (14).