Tag Archives: internet

Julie, Katie, Shona, Kim & Yong’s stories

Julie remembers going to the library before she got the internet at home as a teenager – she used the public library for quick internet access. She had four siblings so it was often easier to go to the public library there.

Shona’s friend had a brand new baby and she was surprised to find she could join the library as a newborn and borrow pictures books for long periods of time.

Kim’s Mum borrowed a computer book from the library and took it home and fixed her own computer.

Katie used the public library to practice her driving theory tests – you could log in with your library number and practice for free at home. It saved her buying the DVDs and the tests changed every time you went on. She passed and it didn’t cost her a penny!

Yong  – A library for relaxed social place. I learned how to use computers from my local library and also enjoyed meeting friends in the libraries for ideas and still do.

Free internet access should be a cornerstone of every public library

Internet access should be provided free of charge (image of Seattle Public Library c/o Civitas Veritas on Flickr).

In 2000, the People’s Network was rolled out to public libraries across the country. Introduced to reduce the extent of the digital divide, it had three main goals:

1. provide universal access to the internet
2. increase take-up of ICT amongst both the digitally and socially excluded
3. support lifelong learning.

Alongside the provision of ICT, training was also provided for staff to ensure that they could provide support for those that required it. Whilst a small minority of libraries charged users for making use of their ICT facilities, the majority provided the service free of charge.

Our view is that the principle of free ICT access is absolutely fundamental for public libraries. Despite the widespread belief that “everyone is online”, a significant proportion of the population are not. In the latest of its quarterly reports into internet access, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that 8.20 million adults had never used the internet. That’s 8.20 million adults who not only do not have an internet connection at home, but have also never sent an email or shopped online.

The quarterly reports produced by the ONS provide some interesting statistics regarding the proportion of people that have never accessed the internet, including:

  • Over 8% of those earning less than £200 per week.
  • 43% of disabled people.
  • 40% of 65-74 year olds.
  • 70% of those over 75.

In contrast, the proportion of those earning over £800 per week who have never accessed the internet is virtually nil. Again, it is worth emphasising that this figure refers to the proportion of the population that have never accessed the internet, not simply those without an internet connection at home.

Alongside their report on internet access, the ONS also produces a report on household internet connectivity. Amongst its findings, the report also reveals the reasons why people do not have an internet connection at home:

  • 20% say that the equipment costs are too high.
  • 10% claimed access costs were too high.
  • 20% believed they lacked the skills required.

It is clear that free ICT access in public libraries has a crucial role to play here. Whilst internet access is undeniably widespread, there are still many who do not have the access that many of us take for granted. For many, the public library provides them with the opportunity to connect and take advantage of the substantial benefits that come with an internet connection. For example, a report by the Department for Education and Skills in 2005 found that “there was a significant positive relationship between pupils’ home use of ICT for educational purposes and improved attainment in certain areas”. For those without a home internet connection, the implication is clear.

Given the extent of the divide between those that do have access and those that do not, it is vital for public libraries to play a key role in addressing this divide. Central to this role should be the provision of free computer and internet access and, equally importantly, trained staff. This is particularly crucial as the government increasingly embraces a “digital only” policy where services can only be accessed via the internet. Clearly such a policy puts many without home internet access at a distinct disadvantage. Given that those affected include the disabled, the elderly and the poorest in society, there are very serious concerns about the impact of a “digital only” approach, concerns that public libraries are in a strong position to address – if they can ensure free internet access and provide trained staff.

As demonstrated in the statistics from the ONS, there are already significant barriers in place for many in accessing the internet. The addition of a charge at their local public library is simply another barrier to add to the list. Indeed, whilst it may be tempting in these times of belt tightening, charging for internet access will likely cause more harm than good. Buckinghamshire libraries, for example, saw a 30% decrease in usage as a result of introducing a £1 charge for 30mins (Goulding, 2006). The impact of charging is clear and significant.

No matter the temptation, the conclusion that should be drawn is that ICT access in public libraries must remain free for those that wish to use it. An insignificant fee to those with a steady income is not necessarily an insignificant fee for those without. With the ongoing changes to the benefits system and pressure on the unemployed to find work, it is surely not appropriate to introduce charging individuals for using an information resource that can play a key role in getting them back into work. Public libraries provide a crucial lifeline for many in difficult economic times. It is important, therefore, to ensure that they continue to offer services such as computer access free of charge. Placing another barrier in the way of those that need the service the most will not balance the books, it will simply exclude the vulnerable, the disabled, the unemployed and those on low incomes. Free access to the internet should be a cornerstone of every public library service, it should not be sacrificed on the basis of a need to “balance the books”. The long term costs of charging stand to have a significant and negative impact on the future of library services, and the individuals and societies they are supposed to serve.

Henry’s story – Libraries are being sidelined

Returning to a blog post forced upon most of my fellow school compatriots, in this course, I’d like to talk about Libraries. I am currently partaking in the DofE Bronze course, something that I will talk about at a later period, probably after I have completed it, due to my opinions on the true nature of it and perhaps how those comments might be taken in a way not beneficial to my completion of it,  and as part of my volunteering, I am working at a homework club, after school. This is a rather simple task, where I sit there and help children with their homework, and attempting to impart my knowledge to them in an interesting way without them vomiting profusely. But this has brought something back to me; the fact that Libraries are darn useful. I can recall myself, sitting in a library and reading books about Physics and History at the ages of 6 and 7. But Libraries are now an endangered species. They are at risk of cuts by local councils, bottlenecked by old systems and ideals for running the libraries. But as the internet is becoming more and more powerful, libraries are being sidelined. The extra services they provide over the books, such as the homework clubs, or use of the computers are required for some people, and indeed help to flourish people and their skills. But I think that for now, libraries are here to stay – for the sole reason the internet is not fully open. Libraries represent the diversity of knowledge and the freedom of that knowledge currently does not exist fully on the internet. It is possible that if several censorship laws are passed, knowledge previously garnered from the internet would have to be found in a library, a nostalgic experience for many. Thus, I think what has to happen is we use libraries as our backup, for the possible burning of the modern day Library of Alexandria; the hub of knowledge that is the internet. We require an equilibrium between the two. This may simply be the case however in countries with more wealth, but I think that in poorer countries struggling to make the jump, knowledge is what is needed, and the library can provide that. But libraries have to be supplemented by the great hive-mind of the Internet, to allow the extra services and knowledge that the library provides become a small amount compared to what the internet provides, but have enough force to show the governments that Libraries are here to stay.

I write this blogpost inspired by, and hoping to share awareness of National Libraries Day, occuring on the 4th of February. I thoroughly encourage you to spend some time in your library that day, and perhaps help out with spreading this post, and National Libraries Day.

On 2 interesting library related notes, firstly, has anyone seen my hardback copy of Snuff, by Terry Pratchett. And secondly, the library I volunteer at, well I owe them about £1350 in late fees for a book I “borrowed” when I was 5. It was about trains. Yeah…

Henry (direthoughts.com)

Will library closures leave children behind?

Over the weekend, startling statistics came to light that once more gives lie to the argument that libraries are no longer required in the digital age.  A report in The Observer, citing the e-Learning Foundation, argued that one million children will receive lower grades than their peers due to a lack of internet access at home.  The report refers to research that states that ‘1.2 million teenagers log on to revision pages every week and those using online resources were on average likely to attain a grade higher in exams’.

By New Jersey Library Association on Flickr

The report goes on to state:

The charity cites BBC research in which more than 100 students used the BBC Bitesize revision materials before their GCSE examination. The children were found to have achieved a grade lift compared to those who did not use the online revision guides. The BBC study says: “This is compared to factors such as teacher influence, which was found to produce no significant difference.”

It is clear that a high proportion of children are seriously disadvantaged as a result of a widening digital divide.  As with the 9 million adults who have never accessed the internet before, these children are largely forgotten by those that are privileged to own a computer and an internet connection.  An entire generation is being left behind and their existence is barely acknowledged.

For many of these children, there is a way out: their local public library.  Libraries provide a safe environment for children and, most importantly, provide them access to the resources that are otherwise denied them.  The provision of a free internet connection offers an opportunity for many children to keep up with their peers.  Alongside a wealth of reference books and the assistance of trained staff, the provision of a computer terminal for children to access a host of online resources is vital.  The library offers them the best chance they have of ensuring they are not left behind.

The support of trained and qualified library staff is also crucial. Professional staff are able to ensure that not only are the appropriate materials available online (as well as off-line) but that children can access them safely and securely.  Furthermore, the provision of homework clubs supported by trained staff helps to bridge the gap between those that have access to a wide range of resources at home and those who do not.  In short, the library is an equitable source of high quality educational and learning resources for all children and young people, regardless of the wealth or status of their parents.

Despite ensuring the disadvantaged aren’t left behind, public libraries are still being threatened with closure across the country.  Not only public libraries, but also school libraries, leaving one million children further disadvantaged.  According to The Observer, a study by BESA (the trade association for the educational supply industry) has revealed that:

“…due to budgetary pressures, schools plan to spend around 8% less on the provision of computers to pupils this year. Critics claim this will negatively affect after-school IT sessions, vital to those without the internet at home.

Only 60% of the 246 primary schools and 188 secondary schools surveyed said they were able to maintain their current spending. Yet nearly a third of schools will make extensive use of home access to the curriculum through the internet.

The belief that libraries are no longer required when ‘everyone’ has an internet connection is one of the driving forces behind proposed closures.  Such misinformation is endangering the economic prosperity of an entire generation.  Continue along the path of library closures and we will ensure that one million children will be left behind to satisfy those that hold the purse strings.  Is that a price worth paying?

‘By closing libraries you are helping to keep the rich richer and the poor poorer!’ – Rachel’s story

By closing libraries you are helping to keep the rich richer and the poor poorer! Sounds extreme but hear me out.

When I was at school my mother as hard as she worked could not always afford all the books I needed so I used to get them out of my local library so did a lot of other people I know. From the age of 11 to 22 the library was fundamental to me getting the information needed to get through my education. An the same for a lot of poorer families.
I currently use the library for dvd rental the internet and the toddler sing-along groups for my 20 month old daughter. I can not afford the internet and quite frankly do not want to be forced to having it in my house so the library is where my daughter will be going to do her homework so all the resources she needs will be at her fingertips giving her a better chance of better grades and a better future! And they want to take that away?

Emma’s story

Robert Jeyes Library, Chadwell Heath

I would like to voice my concerns about this library being on the list for possible closure. Firstly, the staff are so helpful and knowledgeable and work hard for not very much.

Secondly, this lovely library has been a vital community resource for me in my time of living in Chadwell Heath.  As a tax payer including (council tax!) I have used this resource a lot when I had my baby and took him in the early years to the Toy Library and mother/toddler groups.  My son now six adores getting books to read and we have read
hundreds which I know has provided a foundation for his love of learning and discovery.  I have also been able to read books invaluable to me with all aspects of busy life in the twentieth century which is full of change and often uncertainty.

I also used this resource when I had employment dilemmas after having my child and was so grateful for internet access when I could not afford it in my home in the past.  As I mentioned about being a tax payer – working full time makes it difficult to find time to do many other things and I do not use many other community resources so I would be very disappointed if it closes as I pay my taxes for this!!

Lastly, I think it is unacceptable to expect residents to travel to the Heathway to access a library.  Chadwell Heath residents do not have hardly any of the council resources in our vicinity and I wish to protest against any closure.