Belgian Federal Government

Designing the digital library experience of the future

The Royal Library of Belgium (KBR) recognised the need to refocus the organisation and improve the digital accessibility of its collection and services. They employed a human-centred design approach with Namahn to create an optimised experience based on the visitor. 

The Royal Library of Belgium (KBR) PublicFrench / Dutch3 designers

A digital mindset 

The Royal Library of Belgium (KBR) went through a strategic process in 2018 to refocus the organisation’s mission and vision. The library is more than “just books” and houses over 8 million documents that are utilised by scientists and amateur researchers as well as the general public. KBR wanted the visitor to be at the centre of the library experience, making their documents more readily available to the user whether they were interacting on site or online.  

Namahn worked together with KBR employees in 2019 and 2020 to develop concrete action points to translate the mission and vision into a plan. The aim of the project was not only to improve the services, but also to promote the well-being of the staff. In addition, KBR wanted to use this process to provide its staff with the tools that they needed to evolve towards a more digital mindset. 

We were recommended because of our work with the Digital Transformation Office for the Federal Public Service Strategy and Support (BOSA).  

Workshop at the library

Co-creation to imagine the future

At the beginning of the project, the digital services were considered to be a nice addition to the physical services, but not necessarily a crucial element of the service delivery. In the first three workshops, staff were therefore very focused on the physical experience within the library and the improvement of the digital experience was perceived as a ‘nice to have’. 

The action plan in seven steps

This was completely changed in 2020 with the global health pandemic forcing everyone into lockdown, and it was decided to radically transform the digital experience and to make it completely free. 

Our process started with a workshop in which the action plan was translated into user experiences. The first exercise was to visualise the ideal future. For each type of user, this was done with specific attention to digital services, both onsite and online. The result of this exercise was a visual poster depicting what the future could look like. 

“This service design exercise has allowed us to develop this vision very concretely in applications for the user.” 

Hannes Lowagie 
Project leader digital transformation at KBR 

In additional workshops, the participants worked using the Swimlanes exercise by displaying the activities of users over time in “swim lanes” to show which underlying processes can help them operate, mapping both the current and future situations. 

In terms of how to improve the physical space of the building, we used a Serious Play exercise to test different scenarios based on a model using role play. 

One challenge in this project was a differing in mindsets between the staff and management. The staff was mostly focused on the physical experience while the management wanted to go all digital. It also became clear to us that our initial deliverable of a roadmap would not be sufficient as the project became more digitally focused. A more concrete version in screens was deemed a more favourable delivery.  

“The service design process made us think about our integral service provision: from reading rooms, the website, reader cards to pricing.” 

Sara Lammens  
Managing Director of KBR a.i. 

Ready to test 

The result of our work with KBR was a series of concrete proposals for them to begin testing for both online and offline experiences. The project was successful in that we were able to hand everything over to them, so that they can develop the ideas further, testing with both employees and users. 

“Digital transformation is not only about technology, but above all about concrete solutions for the end user. “ 

Sara Lammens  
Managing Director of KBR a.i.