Lancaster University

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Voice Your View at Lancaster Library

11/13/2009 10:42:07

Imagine commenting on the latest changes at Lancaster library – only to have your words flash up on a large TV screen for other users to see.

That’s the futuristic scenario at the library from Monday, November 23, when pioneering technology from Lancaster University means that the 1,500 people who use the library every day will be able to leave feedback visible to all.

Library goers will be able to record their views via telephone before a computer converts their words into a written message. Everyone in the library will be able to see the comments appear on large plasma TV screens where a glowing orb on-screen will be used to signal the mood of the participants, with a green orb for positive remarks and a red orb for negative ones.

The hi-tech experiment called “VoiceYourView ” enables people to leave feedback on the changes to the building on Market Square, which recently reopened following a £640,000 refurbishment with the Big Lottery Funds.

The changes have already aroused both criticism - “nice and bright but the library has lost its character and the carpet will give my wife migraines” – and compliments – “wonderful, light, airy – loads of room especially the children’s section and the carpet means you can sit on the floor with your children and enjoy the books – well done!”

Professor Jon Whittle of the University’s Computing Department at InfoLab21 said: “It’s a way of using technology to allow people to participate more actively in the design of public spaces. If people can see their comments on screen and in real time, it’s easier for library staff to take action on what people want changed. They will only have to look at the orb to see the most common topic and the prevailing mood of the comments.”

The first phase of renovation work is now complete with a new reference library, including a new family and local history section in the old children's library, as well as a 'sanctuary' quiet space on the first floor with study tables and comfortable seating, as well as a mixture of computers and laptops, and the use of free wi-fi. Toilets and a lift are also included in the upgrade. Books are now housed on wheeled trolleys, enabling them to be moved to make use of the new open space for community activities such as gigs.

Prof Whittle said: “People wonder what happens when they fill in a comment book – but now they will be able to see their comments appear in public and so we hoped this will give people a greater sense that their views matter.”