Libraries Week is here and we’re witnessing a plethora of exciting activities and celebrations taking place in libraries across the UK. With the spotlight focused on libraries this week, it’s worth noting that this kind of energy isn’t just an occurrence once every 52 weeks. It’s evidence of the ongoing drive to make a difference to the millions of library users that rely on library facilities and staff all year round.
Libraries are instrumental in developing the nation’s digital skills. They enable their customers to have more and greater opportunities to participate in society and improve their lives. Around 10% of households have no internet access, and many more rely solely on smartphones for everything that modern life demands we do online. So the People’s Network of public access computers is critically important and a fundamental piece of infrastructure for the many that rely on it.
This year Lorensbergs highlighted the support and dedication of libraries for their users in our publication More Short Stories from the People’s Network. Published in conjunction with CILIP, the book has been endorsed by Libraries Minister, Michael Ellis, and contains a foreword by CILIP President, Ayub Khan. It covers many of the initiatives and work carried out by libraries in helping customers use computers and simply get online.
The book contains chapters from twelve different library authorities and is available for download free-of-charge here. With this year’s theme for Libraries Week focusing on wellbeing, take a look at the book for many examples of how libraries facilitate inclusion through their computer facilities and staff. For those of you short on time, here’s an extract from each contributing authority, to provide you with some quick insights:
“The People’s Network makes the library the ‘go-to place’ for using IT: people come here to use the computers in the knowledge that they can be safe, warm and engaged. What we’re really providing is social inclusion.” Warwickshire Libraries
“We still get people coming in everyday who are not so computer literate. And despite their confidence, not all young people are completely competent in being able to find what they need on the internet, so we continue to provide help... Without the internet in libraries, so many people would not have had the ability to learn or make contact with others. We’ve changed and improved a lot of peoples’ lives and it’s hard to think how we would be without it.” Vale of Glamorgan Libraries
“As more and more services become digital, and as the rate of technological change continues to gather pace, people need both the skills and the access that the People’s Network brings.” East Renfrewshire Libraries
“Being able to access public PCs in the libraries is the only way that many people can use the Council’s online services – and some of these are no longer available by any other means. Those looking for jobs also use the People’s Network a great deal.” Redcar and Cleveland Libraries
"I’ve attended (library computer) sessions since June - got a job in October!" Customer of Northumberland Libraries
“The People’s Network is a core means of providing information, and libraries have always been about passing on information. Libraries are adapting their role to serve a changing society; the People’s Network is an important tool in enabling them to do this.” ANGUSalive Libraries
“Those who cannot access the internet are bound to lose out, both socially and financially: for example, by not being able to apply for jobs or being unable to obtain financial support. This makes the People’s Network a fundamental element of social inclusion. It’s more important than ever, and certainly not just an add-on service; it’s as important as library stock.” Live Borders
“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,” Cardiff Libraries
“Searching for jobs is one of the most important reasons for people wishing to use the People’s Network and ‘Job Junction’ support is available in most of the main libraries.” Telford and Wrekin Libraries
“To be able to provide a comprehensive computer service for free is a massive benefit – and “part of who we are”. It continues to be extremely popular, so much so that Rochdale has doubled the number of computers held across all their libraries in the last eighteen months.” Rochdale Libraries
“If this resource was to disappear overnight there would be public outcry... There’s an expectation now that we provide these facilities and they are always available for people to use.” Staffordshire Libraries
“People ask for help all the time and the staff are trained to assist them. Many customers have little knowledge of the basics, such as how to use a mouse or a keyboard, yet need to achieve online access for such important tasks as jobseeking and benefit applications.” Lincolnshire Libraries
During Libraries Week, we’d like to take a moment to congratulate all library staff on doing a fantastic job. Wherever you are in the UK, there’s always a computer and warm welcome at your local library for whatever task you need to complete online.
Lorensbergs is looking forward to focusing on the topic of 'Library People' at this year’s PMLG Teachmeet, where the skills, innovations and practices that put library staff among the top five "most trusted" professions in the UK are to be discussed further. We hope to see you there.