Public library staff and volunteers in the UK have helped more than 2.5 million people to go online in the past 18 months. Most of these people were completely new internet users, and some were tentative users who lacked confidence in their skills.
In September 2010 the Society of Chief Librarians pledged to get 500,000 people online by the end of 2012 as part of the Government’s
RaceOnline 2012, led by UK Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox.
SCL President Nicky Parker said: “We have exceeded our target by five times and it is still early in 2012. This is thanks to the thousands
of dedicated library staff and volunteers who are digital champions and through whom this achievement has been possible.”
Nearly 30% of households in the UK do not have access to the internet at home and for many people the local library is an essential link for
access to online resources. Access to the internet is provided free of charge in more than 90% of libraries in the UK.
Martha Lane Fox, UK’s digital champion, said: “Libraries are crucial to the success of Go ON UK’s objectives. The thousands of digital champions in libraries and millions of new internet users are to be commended.”
In Walsall in the West Midlands Mrs. Brooks, who lives alone and far from family, took part in a library course to help her confidently use the internet. After an eight-week course she could shop for food online and order things she could not find locally. She now uses Skype and email to keep in touch with her family, including her
granddaughter who is at university. Before help from the library, Mrs Brooks only used her laptop, bought for her by friends, to play solitaire.
For the millions of people helped online at public libraries, these new skills are changing their lives for the better.
Libraries will continue to reach out to people without access to computers at home and will play a key role in ensuring that individuals and communities are poised to make the most of the Government’s super-fast broadband rollout
across the UK, especially in isolated communities.
Public libraries work closely with DirectGov, NHS Choices and the Adult Careers Service to ensure that citizens can confidently access health, employment and benefits information they need as well as pay for their driving license, passport or parking permit.
The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) is a local government association made up of the chief librarian of each library authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. SCL takes a leading role in the development of public libraries, through sharing best practices, advocating for continuous improvement on behalf of local people, and leading the debate on the future of the public library service. www.goscl.com
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