It was a privilege to present at last month’s Libraries Connected Seminar and a great opportunity to communicate how Lorensbergs supports libraries. The People’s Network of library computers is central to what we do and we are committed to supporting libraries’ printing and Wi-Fi services, as part of the essential digital services they provide. It was great to share our research to conference attendees.
You may well share my experience of regularly being asked “Do people need to go to libraries to use computers these days?” and “Doesn’t everyone have a smart phone for accessing the internet?” Of course, these are valid questions in today’s digital age. But they are usually asked without a view of the national picture or an understanding of the true digital divide that exists. Assumptions are often made around everyone’s ability to easily access and use online information and services.
The facts are that 10% of households are without internet access – a percentage that has failed to reduce over the last two years, and has only changed by 1% since 2016. For many people access to the internet is reliant solely on smartphones. Having one of these brilliant mini computers in your pocket doesn’t mean you know how to make use of the technology, or have the necessary skills or knowledge to carry out tasks, retrieve information and stay safe online. We’re increasingly seeing library users join the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend, and turning to libraries for advice on using their various devices. We can support them with both our netloan Wi-Fi print solution and our netloan Wi-Fi authentication and reporting management software.
And of course, for the multitude of tasks that really need a computer, keyboard and good sized screen, we’re there to support libraries with the essential netloan PC booking solution. The fact is that the People’s Network plays an important role not just for the 10% without access but lots of other users too and this is what we also explored in our Libraries Connected presentation. The slides are available for download here.
As more of our lives move online – the access and support libraries offer is vital. Each year, Lorensbergs carries out research amongst our 113 netloan public library authority customers as part of our autumn customer user groups. We explore how library needs are changing and hear our customers’ plans for their services.
Many public libraries are in the midst of PC refreshes, updating their Windows 7 estates. We encourage libraries to be cautious about cuts to your PC numbers. This is not only given the huge and growing demands across communities for libraries’ support with digital skills. Our research also shows that improving your technology drives an increase in use. So be careful when weighing up current data on service usage – it might not be the best indicator of actual demand for PCs in your communities. Get the technology right and it leads to more people coming into libraries – and that’s never a bad thing!
Thanks to everyone for your interest and enthusiasm in our research findings at the LC seminar! If you weren’t able to be there, we hope you find the presentation slides useful.