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Making public spaces everyone’s business

Interior view of Marrickville Library

Marrickville Library

A jointly scoped project to optimise membership, visitation and satisfaction of selected NSW libraries to improve their social, cultural and place performance. 

The project is jointly supported by:  

  • State Library of NSW 
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet (Premier’s Priority Unit) 
  • Department of Customer Service (Behavioural Insights Unit)  
  • Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (Public Spaces Division) 
  • Australian Library Information Association 
  • NSW Public Libraries Association. 


The Public Spaces Division in the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment are responsible for coordinating the delivery of Premier’s Priority 11 for Greener Public Spaces: Increase the proportion of homes in urban areas within 10 minutes’ walk of quality green, open and public space by 10% by 2023.  

The Public Spaces team has adopted the United Nations’ definition of public space for the purposes of Greener Public Spaces, that is ‘places publicly owned or of public use, accessible and enjoyable by all for free and without a profit motive’, and these include:  

  • Open spaces: Bushland, active and passive open space (sports grounds, parks) 
  • Public facilities: Libraries, community centres, cultural facilities (museums, galleries) 
  • Streets: Streets, plazas, pavements, passages and paths. 

The Public Spaces Division will work with the State Library of NSW and the Behavioural Insights Unit to conduct a research project with the outcome of increasing access to quality public space by removing the obstacles for the community to safely use and visit libraries.  The project was endorsed by the Strategic Network Committee at the 23 October 2020 meeting. 

The project team will work with selected NSW public libraries to apply behavioural insights to an identified issue or problem. The Behavioural Insights Unit will assist libraries to trial and measure a behavioural change that responds to that problem. The findings from the projects will deliver a set of guidelines that can be implemented across NSW public libraries. 

Project 1: Increased visitation of current inactive members - January - May 2021 (in progress)

Participant libraries: 

  • Bega Valley Shire Library 
  • Northern Beaches Libraries 
  • City of Sydney Library 

Project 2: Increased overall membership  - commencing in June 2021

Participant libraries: 

  • Wagga Wagga City Library 

Project Methodology  

For both projects, the same methodology will apply.  

1. Understand the behavioural problem

  • Conduct user research to understand the enablers and barriers to the behaviour of interest.  
  • Analyse existing data to understand the behavioural problem (e.g. does it happen to a specific group of customers). 
  • Research activities can include survey, focus group, or observation at the library. 

2. Build intervention(s)

  • Using a co-design approach to build intervention(s) that address the barriers identified in the “Understand” phase. 

3. Test the Intervention(s) 

  • Run a trial to test if the intervention(s) works. 

Further information