Libraries’ role in digital skills development continues to grow
Almost half of public libraries saw increasing numbers of customers request help with digital skills last year. This is a key finding of Lorensbergs’ annual public library survey which highlights the vital role played by libraries in supporting digital inclusion and individual wellbeing.
Libraries report that requests for IT assistance is primarily driven by the need to access ‘Digital by Default’ government services, with Universal Credit help most frequently required. Support for jobseekers is also reported as being in high demand.
The entire range of needs that libraries meet in providing Assisted Digital* and other online services support is vast and growing. In this environment, libraries are striving to maintain and develop digital support services and resources to meet the array of needs. 40% of libraries have plans to increase resources available to customers, ranging from basic computer skill classes, to code clubs and innovation labs.
Libraries are also pushing ahead where possible with upgrade plans for their computer networks, with 50% of libraries expecting to be on the latest Microsoft operating system, Windows 10, by the end of 2019. Demand for PC time remains strong with almost 1 in 5 public libraries experiencing increased use of their People’s Network of computers last year.
A persistent digital divide leaves a significant proportion of society at risk of being disadvantaged without the support provided by libraries. In 2018, 10% of households** were without internet access, with any decrease levelling off over the previous two years. Meanwhile the ability to complete everyday tasks, and remain socially and economically included has made online access increasingly necessary.
Anna Crilly, Lorensbergs’ Managing Director, commented: “The technology landscape changes rapidly, and there are always new challenges that libraries need to meet in their role of progressing digital inclusion. Every day, libraries are presented with new questions by their customers on how to get things done online, while remaining safe and included. This one-to-one support is vital. We see how libraries are responding with some wonderful projects and initiatives despite the constraints that they operate within.”
Lorensbergs’ annual survey goes out to all public library authorities that use netloan library software to manage their PCs, printing and Wi-Fi. This represents over 50% of the UK public library sector.
The full results summary for 2018 is available here and provides further details on the areas of digital access that libraries support and their future plans.
* Assisted Digital refers to assistance to use Digital by Default online services. Digital by Default is a common and growing method for accessing and using local and central government services.
About Lorensbergs (www.lorensbergs.co.uk)
Lorensbergs offers a range of market-leading software solutions with expert advice to match. Our range of intelligent and customisable PC booking and online booking solutions, netloan and connect2, have been designed to streamline booking processes and improve efficiencies in libraries, universities and colleges, and local authorities. Lorensbergs offers consultancy services and training, working closely with our customers to enhance service provision for university, library and public service users and patrons.