Councils are going digital. But getting paperwork to councillors in provincial New Zealand has, for the most part, remained analogue – rural post. Stellar Library is revolutionising the way councils share and distribute information.
Councillors at Western Bay of Plenty District Council rely on Stellar Library for secure, cloud-based document sharing and synchronisation. All the files and documents they need to take care of business are automatically stacked on a virtual bookcase on their tablets. Another small dent in the rural post; a giant victory for Council’s document management.
“Stellar Library is the simplest and easiest way to give councillors all the documents and files they need. They use it and they love it. It’s the way forward for our council.”
— Barbara Whitton | Group Manager Customer Services | www.westernbay.govt.nz
In the age of digital, paper is ‘broken’
Western Bay of Plenty District Council group manager customer services Barbara Whitton juggles a host of responsibilities, including a democracy function that supports the council’s mayor and elected members – around 20 individuals.
There’s a lot going on, much of it involving time-sensitive documentation – plans, meeting agendas, minutes and the like – that must be delivered to elected members by deadlines enshrined in law.
Whitton’s team was often hunched over photocopiers, creating document bundles for quick dispatch to councillors who live in all corners of the largely rural district. It was a cumbersome process, which simply didn’t add up for an organisation focused on continuous improvement through cost-efficient processes.
“There had to be a better way,” said Whitton.
“The council has committed to digital processes and centralised documentation that can be shared anywhere, anytime. Simplicity is key. And that’s why we chose Stellar Library.”
Managing documents on mobile devices
Whitton said she loves Stellar Library’s instant “push-button” publishing, which stacks the shelves of councillors’ virtual bookcases on their tablets. The system is also highly secure, auditable, and satisfies local government best practices.
One of her democracy team members works as the system librarian and uploads files to a browser-based document library, where tick-box options determine which documents appear on each councillor’s virtual bookcase.
Councillors can open and view documents – and even add annotations – without having to send or transfer individual files.
Locking down cloud freedoms
Observing the popularity of cloud ‘box’ document storage services, Whitton said the council would never go there, because file sharing couldn’t be policed.
“Council business is discoverable under the Local Government Official Information and Management Act,” said Whitton. “But occasionally we deal with sensitive items that are part of bigger decisions. So Stellar Library’s security features are important to us.”
Bridging the tyranny of distance
The central beauty of a cloud-based system like Stellar Library is that it democratises information access. The need to remain physically connected to storage systems and IT networks is history, because the internet connects people and information, wherever they happen to be.
However, in largely rural areas, like the Western Bay of Plenty, continuous internet connectivity is no sure bet.
But that doesn’t have to be a showstopper.
Once councillors have downloaded files to their virtual bookcase they’re instantly accessible, with or without an internet connection. And when the document librarian updates a document or withdraws a file from a councillor’s virtual bookcase, everything is automatically updated in the background the moment an internet connection is re-established. Council’s WiFi network does the job beautifully each time councillors turn up for meetings.
Dollars and sense
Whitton said savings in paper and delivery costs alone amounted to thousands of dollars, making Stellar Library great value, said Whitton.
“Stellar Library is the simplest and easiest way to give councillors all the documents and files they need. They use it and they trust it. It’s the way forward for our council.”