TH Wildau library Award-Winning Innovation

TH Wildau university library
TH Wildau university library | Photo (detail): © TH Wildau

The library of Wildau Technical University of Applied Sciences (TH) is developing technologies of the future for its users. It has now received the “Library of the Year 2012” award for its innovative spirit.

decoupled and loaded here. Today, it is home to an award-winning library whose influence extends not only into the small Brandenburg town of Wildau, but also out into the big wide world.

The library of Wildau Technical University of Applied Sciences moved to this listed industrial site in 2007, making a home for itself in a red brick building with modern glass and steel constructions. The library is spread out over three floors, all arranged gallery-style around a central agora.

Library users feel very much at ease in this impressive and inviting ambience, as does the highly motivated team at what has been voted Library of the Year 2012. The prize, which is endowed with 30,000 euros, is awarded each year by the German Library Association and the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius.

A proud “dream team”

“We are absolutely delighted to win this award! And we are well aware that our success stands or falls with our team”, explains Dr Frank Seeliger, director of the university library. The seven members of the core team, who share nearly five full-time positions between them, are supplemented by project staff, trainees, student assistants and interns, giving rise, in Seeliger’s words, to “a very heterogeneous group with flat hierarchies and an extremely positive and sporting team spirit”.

It was above all the team’s innovativeness, creativity and desire to experiment that convinced the jury of the library award. Time and time again, the library succeeds in creating project posts that allow forward-looking services to be developed. “The constructive cooperation with the students and staff of Wildau Technical University is a real blessing for us”, enthuses Seeliger.

In Wildau, he explains, new IT solutions are being developed to meet the specific requirements of libraries. “We take advantage of the specialist expertise available here at the university, which allows us – unencumbered by commercial interests – to develop new approaches and expand or optimize our services. It is important for us that our innovations should also be embraced by other libraries and incorporated into their everyday workflows.”

Shelves that keep count and intelligent dummies

Among other things, an intelligent and movable magazine shelf has been developed that records usage statistics. If a user removes a magazine for longer than ten seconds, this is counted as a loan. “This provides us with precise information about which of our magazine subscriptions are in demand”, says Seeliger.

If all the copies of a book in the text book section are out on loan, Wildau students can simply use a smartphone to scan the dummy book on the shelf. Via QR codes, which contain more information than conventional barcodes, users can directly download the eBook version of the desired title.

Auto ID and RFID expertise

The library’s specialist expertise is valued well beyond the boundaries of the German library world, especially when it comes to RFID technology. In 2011, a library staff member established an RFID Special Interest Group at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).

Time and time again, Wildau library staff present solutions at conferences in Germany and abroad – solutions that have resulted from cooperation with the logistics, business informatics and telematics departments. A dedicated auto ID/RFID competence centre has meanwhile been established at the university, where numerous workshops are held; in 2012, a two-day international RFID symposium was staged for already the fifth time. “We see ourselves as a kind of RFID advisory body”, explains Seeliger. “We would like to build upon these activities.”

Impact in the local community

The library plays a key role not only for the university, however, but also for the 10,000 inhabitants of Wildau. The library is open to the public and free of charge. “Around 1,200 of our 5,000 registered users do not belong to the university”, says Frank Seeliger. What is more, numerous public events are held in the attractive Hall 10, including exhibitions, readings, concerts and workshops.

Collaboration with local schools also works well: the library offers special guided tours for different class levels and regularly takes local pupils on work experience placements. There is also very close cooperation with Wildau’s public library – the university library helped its colleagues there implement a modern library management programme, for instance.

Today, Wildau public library is one of the first in Germany to make its online catalogue available via an open source programme. The team at the “Library of the Year 2012” always likes to look at the bigger picture and uses its ideas to help other libraries follow suit.