We are pleased to announce that our submission to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Select Committee inquiry on ‘Digital Exclusion and the Cost of Living’ has now been published on the UK Parliament website.
This submission is based on the experience of our members (Heads of Library Services) and particularly the work of the Information and Digital Universal Library Offer (ULO) group, led by Dave Lloyd, Service Development Manager at Coventry Libraries and Information Service.
Libraries have been at the forefront of tackling digital exclusion for many years. There are approximately 4,000 libraries across the UK, over 90% of which provide digital skills support. The library network is ideally placed to provide this support. Librarians are among the most trusted professions, second only to nurses, and libraries are welcoming, non-judgmental spaces – for those lacking digital confidence, or feeling embarrassed by their lack of skills, these are hugely important factors.
Our experience is that the majority of library users who seek digital skills support come with a specific task that needs to be completed: GP surgeries, Job Centres, County Courts and other council departments, particularly housing, regularly refer people to libraries for support in using digital services. These referrals have increased since the pandemic, when many council services became “digital by default”.
The value of libraries in addressing the digital divide is not limited to support with administrative and transactional tasks. Public libraries also have an important role in enabling the digitally excluded to enjoy the many social, emotional and cultural benefits of the online world. This could be streaming music, researching family history, borrowing ebooks or audiobooks, keeping in touch with family members abroad or picking up a new hobby through YouTube.
You can read much more from our submission here. You can also access the other submissions made to the Committee here.