Libraries are changing … while they’re still the wondrous places that offer a world of learning and access to knowledge that they always have been, in the 21st century they’re now also vanguards at the forefront of a new era of opportunity – the digital era.
The very special thing about public libraries is that they have always been for everyone. Throughout their history, libraries have empowered socially excluded people through offering new opportunities to meet, learn and grow, and they’ve always been a safe, truly free and universal place.
In 2016 there are 12.6 million people in the UK who don’t have basic digital skills; they are missing out on the vast amount of information, education, networks, fulfilment and support that the online world provides. Libraries can make this online world available to everyone equally, no matter their income or background.
Libraries are not simply about books anymore, and they haven’t been for a long time. Nowadays people attend libraries to learn digital skills, as well as to search for jobs, to use Government services which are rapidly moving online, or even to borrow e-books or e-newspapers and magazines. And much, much more than this as well.
Tinder Foundation works with most libraries, and with other local partners in community centres, across England, to help them support local people to be part of our digital society. We are also, specifically, working with 16 libraries, to find new and innovative ways to engage more excluded groups, particularly unemployed people, carers, people on low incomes, housebound, and people with disabilities.
In the future I think libraries will be not just in buildings but all around us, in pubs and cafes, in offices and in bus shelters, wherever the library is found in the future, the library will always be wondrous. The library will always be very everyone.