Codesigning the Future of the State Library of Victoria

  • 2015

  • Service
    Public Sector Services

Designed By:

  • Steve Baty (Meld Studios)
  • Chris O'Brien (Meld Studios)
  • Dom Gagarin (Meld Studios)
  • Ben Conyers (State Library of Victoria)
  • Bridie Flynn (State Library of Victoria)

Commissioned By:

State Library of Victoria

Designed In:


The State Library of Victoria engaged Meld Studios to redesign the Library’s services. Over a twelve week period an integrated, participatory design team sought to understand current state service delivery; identify opportunities for service improvement and innovation; generated, prototyped and tested concepts; and laid out a future vision for service delivery covering everything from the iconic front lawn to offsite storage 100km away in Ballarat.The new service designs set the organisation up for a digital future; changes in public attitudes towards cultural institutions; the changing role of State Libraries; and address funding gaps between public expectations and current funding levels.

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  • Similar and related services are more closely co-located within the physical environment of the Library, allowing staff capabilities to better match the nature of the assistance needed in any given zone. The new zoning directly addresses challenges faced when staffing service desks, tying up very experienced Reference Librarians with mundane inquiries relating to the location of utility services within the building. These questions will now be handled by less-experienced staff more appropriate to the task. At the same time, the References Librarians are now better able to answer reference requests, and work on the Library's priceless collections. The re-zoning allowed other benefits, described below.

  • The new Library design puts a much warmer face to the physical environment, relocating the Security barriers - and Security personnel - further back into the building. This creates a much more natural and inviting flow into the space, and removes the uncertainty that can afflict new visitors to the Library when they first pass through the doors. Visitors will now flow through the foyer, into the dedicated co-working space, or up the heritage marble staircases (closed to the public for many years) towards the Collections and gallery spaces.Dedicated Members' lounges provide a tangible benefit to Library supporters, helping to drive patronage both physical and financial.

  • The new design addresses efficiency at the process level for the Library's most commonly-used services. These re-defined processes cover areas such as self-serve kiosks, registration, computer use, print/copy/scan services, collection requests, research inquiries, promoting & developing staff expertise, and digitisation on demand. These process improvements, in conjunction with the service redesign, helped address the dual concerns of service quality and efficiency.

  • The State Library of Victoria, along with cultural institutions right around the globe, is in the midst of a major shift as it re-adjusts to a world of eBooks, blogs, and youtube. The new service design directly addresses the tensions at play within the Library, introducing new ways for Collections to be digitised and shared electronically. This in turn minimises the reliance on physical access to books, and allows the work of the Library to be more broadly shared without increasing costs.New digital signage within the physical environs of the Library will allow this content to be previewed to visitors in new ways, raising awareness of the richness of the collection.

    The project was approached from the outset with a desire to draw on the deep experience and passion of the Library's staff in designing the new services. The integrated team was based in the Library and worked on all aspects of the project from start to finish. The Library's staff are now leading the program of work to implement the new services and roll out the physical changes to the Library environment.

    The service design approach was heavily-geared towards participation on the part of Library staff from across the organisation.Senior staff helped provide insight into the current realities of cultural institutions and the trends helping to shape the Library's service offerings and operational strategies.Front-line staff were observed during customer interactions and interviewed in order to better understand the joys and challenges of work in the Library. Staff were engaged in reviewing the current state of service delivery, helping to identify opportunities for service improvement and innovation; to generate ideas for addressing those opportunities; and in testing working prototypes of the new designs.

    The new service represents a re-design of the Library's services from the front lawn and the main entry-way, through to the ways in which people access the Collections both online and off.The impact of these changes will flow through to back-office Library functions all the way to the off-site storage and archival facility in Ballarat.