Anyone who knows me or who reads my blogs regularly will know that I have a particular passion for libraries. I love everything they stand for, they have something for everyone, no matter what your age, gender, ethnicity or social class. However, I also think that there are a lot of libraries who need to be brought into the 21st century. I spoke at an event last year on this very subject, please do read the transcript here. So yesterday I was particularly excited to see the launch of the Independent Library Report by William Sieghart which suggests that every library in England should be equipped with free Wifi enabling people to get access to the internet whenever their local library is open. The internet is fulfilling, rewarding, and challenging. The internet is free and universal. It should be open to everyone.
At the end of the report you can read how some libraries – who are also UK online centres – demonstrate just how having access to the internet can revolutionise the running of a library service. Outreach classes for the hardest to reach, one to one support sessions and flexible convenient computer classes are just a few of the examples our partners have told us about. A shining example of how libraries in the 21st century can make a difference.
Libraries need to be reimagined not rebranded, I hate to say it but there are still some libraries which are not good at all, not offering the kinds of services which we see in Cambridgeshire or Barrow-in-Furness. I’m not saying that free wifi will transform all libraries but it will go some way towards changing the image of libraries, they can become the ‘go to’ place in local communities and allow people access to the gateway of information and engagement that the internet holds!
I love libraries but what I love more is when I see libraries (and other community-run UK online centres too) operating as the community hub pulling young and old alike into a world of information, learning, fulfilment and enlightenment.
I hope the Government finds the cash to pay for the upgrades in technology, and upgrades in ambition, that William Sieghart’s report calls for.