Libraries Delivering Digital Inclusion - 2016 Roundup
15 Dec 2016
Written by Luke Wilson & Sharon Wagg
Reflecting back over the past 12 months, here at Good Things Foundation we’ve had an interesting year working with our wonderful network of Library Online Centres.
We’ve been living and breathing all things ‘digital inclusion and libraries’, and that’s involved a whole host of activities - from conducting research and insight to presenting at events, organising library networking events to producing library related resources and reports, and of course visiting and talking to libraries and library stakeholders up and down the country.
We’ve learned a lot about libraries, library users, and about how to improve our support to libraries. Some of our key highlights for 2016 include:
- Oct 2015 - April 2016 - Good Things Foundation’s Library Digital Inclusion Fund Action Research Project, a focussed piece of research working with 16 library services on digital inclusion activities. Further details can be found in the interim and final evaluation reports.
- Feb 2016 - Teachmeet event - Good Things Foundation & CILIP’s Information Literacy Group ran two Teachmeet events - one in Leeds and the other in London. Findings of the Teachmeet can be found here: What place does digital inclusion have in digital literacy?
- Sept 2016 - Libraries Delivering Digital Inclusion event - Due to popular demand Good Things Foundation ran this event attended by over 100 delegates made up of a mix of library staff, library stakeholders, and representatives from Good Things Foundation. Findings from the event are summarised in our Libraries Taskforce blog, and our event report published today
- 2016 - Presentations - We’ve presented all over the place throughout the year including a number of CILIP events such as CILIP’s annual conference in Brighton, seven SCL regional meetings and this year’s European Conference of Information Literacy entitled Information Literacy in the Inclusive Society.
- 2016 - Library resources - Throughout the year we have developed useful resources for libraries such as the Doing Digital Inclusion Libraries Handbook, Library webinars, training resources and case studies, and the recent release of our #Digilibraries Infographic.
- Oct 2016 - Libraries played an essential role in our Get Online Week.
- June 2016 - We started the Library Online Centres Newsletter - a monthly newsletter dedicated to all things libraries and digital inclusion which is distributed to over 3,000 people. You can still sign up via the Online Centres Network website.
There are currently 2,931 libraries in the Online Centres Network. 857 of these libraries use Learn My Way and 11,619 learners gained basic digital skills in libraries in 2015/2016. Not only do libraries delivering digital inclusion obviously help tackle digital and social exclusion and make a real difference to people's lives, (including social exclusion, health & social care and economic growth) - they also have wider socio-economic benefits. From just the 11,619 learners gaining basic digital skills in 15/16 the potential national channel shift savings are £2,697,827 and a potential cumulative wider economic benefit are £5,087,793.
Imagine if we doubled, or tripled the number of learners supported through libraries this next year? Imagine the difference we could make to local communities, wider society and people’s lives - people like James and Elizabeth in Cumbria, and Christoper from Newcastle.
We’ve seen first hand that many libraries in the Online Centres Network are delivering great digital inclusion activities. But we’re also here to encourage libraries to do even more, and share that good practice more widely.
There’s enormous potential for libraries to help tackle the digital divide at both a local and national level, and to contribute to reducing the UK’s 12.6 million people with limited basic digital skills. In order to do so, libraries need further support to deliver digital inclusion, and also to record, evidence and advocate the social impact of their work. We strongly believe that raising awareness of their wider contribution to society - moving away from just being seen as book lenders - is essential to their future.
As mentioned in the recent Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021, digital access and literacy is a key element of what 21st century libraries deliver - and underpins all the Outcomes identified by the Libraries Taskforce. Libraries are increasingly becoming a frontline public service, helping to tackle a range of social challenges from health and wellbeing to prosperity, learning and skills to community cohesion. Digital access and digital skills are essential to all of these goals.
Good Things Foundation believes that libraries can tackle digital exclusion and the associated social challenges it accentuates. We also believe we can help - for instance through Learn My Way, English My Way, Google Digital Garage, through our management information systems and our webinars and online training.
Although Sharon and I are moving on next year, Good Things will continue to work with local and national partners to support the development of digital inclusion in libraries, and to advocate for a well-resourced, innovative 21st century national library service which can underpin, engage and support communities up and down the UK.