The most digitally advanced library in NSW has opened on the ground floor of the City of Newcastle’s new Customer Service Centre in Newcastle West.
The Digital Library offers visitors a range of state-of-the-art digital technologies including a podcasting studio, a 4.5m x 1.6m interactive digital wall that tells the story of local suburbs, as well as videos promoting the city, Google Earth, various live streams and a host of other learning
The Digital Library also includes an industrial 3D printer, a programable robot, and only the second digital multimedia ‘Magic Box’ anywhere in the world, which provides a hands-free way of reading the more than 400,000 items in the City’s Heritage Collections, including about 1,500 rare books.
The Digital Library also breaks new ground in terms of the collection on offer. Rather than offer up a single copy of every book as done in a traditional library, the Digital Library stocks up to 10 copies of the latest and most popular books, CDs and DVDs. Older books can be ordered and delivered to the Digital Library for pick-up.
The process of borrowing and returning an item is also fully automated, allowing library staff to dedicate time to enabling digital learning rather than being behind a desk.
Large touch screens offer up digitised copies of more than 6,000 newspapers and magazines from 123 countries around the world.
Tablets and personal computers are available free of charge, as well as free Wi-Fi and online games inspired by literary classics. The entire Newcastle Libraries’ collection is also available for download to your personal device, enabling people to read books from their phones or tablets rather than the traditional approach of borrowing a physical book to carry home.
The Library has been designed so that the space can be quickly converted to a Council Chamber for the twice monthly evening meeting of Councillors.
The ground floor of the Council Administration Centre also features a new Customer Service Centre for residents who need to meet with staff for matters such as development applications.
Return visitors will immediately notice the introduction of a concierge service, inspired by Service NSW’s popular one stop shops throughout the state.
The total cost of the Digital Library is $2.8 million and was approved by Council in 2019.
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the considered, flexible layout of the CAC’s ground floor made it a brilliant space in which to learn and master new digital technologies that are now available free to everyone young and old alike.
“I’m very pleased to be able to invite the community into this digital space, which completes our transition from the Roundhouse, the old Council administration building which was sold in 2018 and is now just months from becoming the city’s first five-star hotel,” the lord mayor said.
“Whether you need to enquire about a DA, speak with a member of the Customer Service team or access the hundreds of thousands of items in the City’s e-Library catalogue, the City Administration Centre offers a seamless experience for you to get the most out of your visit.”
Manager customer experience, Deborah Moldrich, said the customer experience team was looking forward to sharing the new space with the public.
“We are the first point of contact for the community and we think they’ll love the new, modern digital amenities just as much as we do,” Ms Moldrich said.
Manager libraries and learning, Suzie Gately, said the Digital Library space was an innovative exchange for City and Library services.
“The Digital Library forms part of Council’s unanimously supported 2019-2029 Library Strategy to create contemporary and connected library facilities to support lifelong learning, and that’s precisely what we’ve delivered here at 12 Stewart Avenue.
“We are extremely proud to be able to promote our city as having the most digital advanced library in NSW for learning, whether it be for children or adults. Technologies such as the free podcasting studio are about ensuring our community have the digital skills required to secure jobs over the coming years,” Ms Gately said.
Due to COVID-19, customers are encouraged to continue to use phone and digital channels to access support from the Customer Service team and make cashless payments where possible.
Funding of $2,128,835 towards the cost of the project was provided via the 2015 sale of the former Newcastle School of Arts that was dedicated to be used for a new library.