A new research report by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) highlights the role of public libraries in opening up free online access and providing support to help people get online. Heads of library service, library managers and IT specialists from 112 local authorities in England took part in the study. The aim was to identify the extent of available Internet access; support for people to get online; and digital training of library staff.
The report, prepared by CFE on behalf of the MLA, confirmed that 79 percent of library services in English Local Authorities do not charge for Internet access at all. A further 12 percent do not make any charge for the first hour (91 percent in total). There is an average of 762 hours of Internet access available across all libraries in a Local Authority area per week. Nearly all Local Authorities (98 percent) provide this access in the evening and at weekends with over half (59 percent) providing Internet access on Sundays.
Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of library services have provided digital training to their frontline staff to support them in their role of providing both one-to-one and group support to library users. Three-quarters (75 percent) of English Library authorities offer one–to-one support from frontline staff. Third parties are used by four in 10 (44 percent) local authorities and volunteers are used by one-third (34 percent) of local authorities.
Respondents estimated that they offer an average of 121 hours for both group and one-to-one support. Library services are particularly skilled at supporting older people to get online – such people are offered support by about 64 percent of Local Authorities.
People are also supported to get online in libraries to improve their employability – 86 percent of library services report that they provide support to the unemployed to get online. Seventy-six percent support online job searches, 71 percent support through CV writing and 63 percent offer short courses that help the unemployed improve their ICT skills.
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