This week we’re not only celebrating Libraries Week but also marking the 20th Anniversary of the People’s Network. First conceived as a ground-breaking Government initiative in 1997, the People’s Network is a 40,000-strong resource of public access computers provided and supported in public libraries since early last decade.
Before this time, library computers for public use were few and far between. And having one with a dial up capability was a luxury in itself with broadband yet to come. We have some fascinating stories on what the People’s Network project involved, the difference it made, and how libraries have continued to develop as a result. Look out for our upcoming feature article in the November edition of the new CILIP magazine, which includes recollections of library professionals and our own netloan staff on the roll out and early days of the People’s Network.
In the meantime, here are some library customers’ and colleagues’ reflections on this important anniversary:
“I can’t begin to imagine what our users would do without library PCs. Many people wouldn’t have any internet access at all. They would be cut off from the whole wealth of information that it provides. And that’s what libraries are really about – access to information and equality of that access for everyone.”
James Gorwill, Digital Officer at Cardiff Libraries
“We see it very much as a demonstration of the Council’s commitment to providing equal opportunities, which includes access to IT and the support and training to go with it.”
Jo Heaton, Library Group Manager, Telford and Wrekin Libraries, commenting on the Council’s substantial investment in computers for public use.
“Now the People’s Network has become an everyday thing, an integral part of what the library does… People would definitely notice if the libraries no longer had the People’s Network – I know this from the general consternation shown on the rare occasions when the system is down!”
Jackie Severs, Senior Librarian for Customer Services, Redcar and Cleveland Libraries
“Over time, we’ve expanded our role and people are increasingly being directed by other agencies to the library, such as jobseekers from the Department of Work and Pensions. There’s definitely the expectation now that the library is where you go if you want free internet access, or if you need support in filling out online forms…
Despite the increase in home computers and broadband, there remains the need for IT access within libraries, and people can feel let down if the library PCs aren’t working. We hear from our libraries that if funding was available, they would happily accommodate more PCs.”
Simon Warren, Client Services Team Leader, Staffordshire Libraries
We'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone all the best for the week ahead - we hope that your Libraries Week activities are successful in celebrating the enduring role of libraries. With this in mind, we’d like to share with you a light-hearted video looking at the history of the People’s Network and why it remains important today. You can access the video here.
At Lorensbergs we look forward to working with our library customers on the continued delivery and support of the essential national resource of the People’s Network.