With the initial lockdown lifting on library services, Lorensbergs has researched how public libraries in the UK have reintroduced their PC, printing and Wi-Fi services.
The results provide a snapshot of the services available at late August/early September and libraries’ plans for the months ahead. A total of 96 library authorities have taken part, with participation stretching across the UK.
The findings represent how it’s been necessary for library authorities to respond according to the guidelines and different circumstances of their local areas. They also provide insights into the importance of restoring services for users, libraries’ hard work to achieve this, and the methods they’ve used to provide safe digital resource access.
The key findings are as follows:
- By late August to early September over 70% of library authorities had restored public PC access in at least some of their branches. Nearly 40% were providing access in all or majority of libraries. Only 3% had no confirmed timescales to start providing it
- All library authorities rated providing PCs as important, with 70% viewing it as an essential service
- The main reasons that users need access to library PCs at this time is jobseeking, benefit applications especially Universal Credit, help with digital skills, printing, homework, keeping in touch, making medical appointments, and online shopping. For many users it’s the only way they are able to achieve these tasks
- There is less PC time available: 100% of libraries have needed to reduce PC numbers to maintain social distancing between users, and 80% shorten sessions to allow for workstation cleaning, shorter opening hours and to maximise session availability for users
- Customers have been feeding back to libraries: the majority have received questions or complaints over the loss or reduction in PCs and printing, or experienced customers’ relief and gratitude for these services being restored
- There’s a high focus on hygiene relating to PC access: over 70% are cleaning PC workstations after every user; around 85% of libraries use library staff or dedicated cleaners to do the cleaning. Nearly 30% of libraries are doubling up with both staff and users provided with cleaning materials
- Although Wi-Fi is provided by nearly 80% of library authorities, there are some challenges it presents: its use is often discouraged to control length of visits in the library building to support social distancing
- Library print services are considered essential or very important by 85% of library authorities, with many users not having print facilities at home. Self-service payment and release has supported reintroducing this service but concerns around cash handling have led some to provide printouts free of charge
- PC management software functionality is supporting the reopening of PC services and ensuring social distancing and hygiene standards can be maintained
>> To download the full set of results, please click here.
With thanks to all library authorities who have participated in the poll.