by Dave Lloyd, Service Development Manager at Coventry Libraries and Information Service and the Information and Digital Offer Lead
In Autumn 2021, our Information and Digital Offer group began developing two new online modules as part of their work around media literacy. The online learning modules aim to give library staff and volunteers the skills and knowledge needed to provide effective media literacy support to communities and library users.
Library staff from all 150 public library services in England will be able to access the modules from March 2022 via Learning Pool, our online learning environment.
The key aim for the Information and Digital Universal Offer is to ensure that all communities have access to quality information and digital services so that they can develop their learning skills to find answers, to inform life choices and to feel safe online. These two new learning modules will reinforce the role libraries can play in becoming local media literacy hubs in their communities. They will allow libraries to continue their progression from not only providing access to information but creating a culture in society based upon the safe sharing of information and knowledge.
Digital inclusion is a core priority for all library services. This is delivered via the People’s Network of free internet, WiFi, computer and printer access. This is allied with expert support from library staff and volunteers to support people to get online safely and confidently. In 2019 over 26 million hours of internet access were provided through the People’s Network. The pandemic has laid bare the size of the digital divide, and also the pressing issue of digital and media misinformation. Public libraries have a core mission to provide access to a wide range of reliable and accurate information. Empowering communities to navigate this world of information is what libraries do.
Working with Upskill Digital, the Information and Digital Offer group are co-creating the modules which will be aligned with the needs and interests of library services. A comprehensive needs analysis has taken place to identify the key areas of development to address. Over 1100 frontline library staff responded to a survey asking for their thoughts on a number of issues centred on digital and information literacy.
'A big part of any training needs to be giving staff the tools to reassure customers around the basic fears they have when they come in [about being online].'
'There are so many different things that people ask that I always worry at the start that I won't be able to help them.'
Building confidence and knowledge will be at the core of the modules. Focus groups with Heads of Library services have produced additional feedback and the resulting data will be used to inform module development. This will focus on two main areas: Media and Information Literacy and Key Digital Skills. The Media and Information Literacy module will also respond to issues raised in the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s media literacy strategy, with the Key Digital Skills module connecting to DCMS’ Essential Digital Skills Framework. We are grateful to the DCMS for their financial support for the Media and Information Literacy Module. We will be sharing further progress online prior to the launch in March 2022.