Libraries Connected welcomes the new Great Digital Catch up campaign by The Good Things Foundation.
A recent poll by library software company Lorensbergs, found that over 70% of UK library authorities were providing public PC access by early September. These PCs are relied on by jobseekers, benefit claimants, schoolchildren and many others. 70% of libraries consider PC access to be an essential service for their communities and looking for work is one of the main reasons why people are now using PCs in libraries.
As local lockdowns bring new restrictions to how people can socialise, those without home broadband or limited data allowances have a safety net for keeping in touch with family and friends, thanks to their local library. This is why we believe it’s essential that library buildings are allowed to remain open when decisions are made about future tiered lockdowns.
Digital skill requirements also vary substantially from region to region. For example, data and design skills are important in London to meet the needs of the finance and creative industries, while engineering and advanced manufacturing skills are particularly important in towns like Cambridge and Bristol.
This makes library services the ideal delivery partner for tackling the digital divide because they can tailor their offer to meet specific, local need. Even during lockdown, libraries wrre making calls to people to help them use online services and resources.
In our Libraries in Lockdown report published today, many heads of service reported that library staff skills, particularly for digital communication, social media, and communication could have been better used by councils, particularly to support the digitally-excluded and isolated people.
‘One woman we helped was down to her last 50p, because of an error with her benefit payment and was reduced to walking into shops to ask for work, as she had no other way to find a job. Our staff were able to put her in contact with relevant charities quickly, so she could feed herself and get accommodation.’
Libraries are already perfectly positioned to help the ‘9 million people across the UK still stranded by the digital divide and unable to fully use the internet’. Library services would welcome additional funding to ensure that everyone who needs to access digital resources are able to do so.