A cohort of libraries around the UK and Ireland is pioneering Libraries Lead With Digital, a scheme to bridge the digital skills gap by supporting and training local communities.
Libraries Lead With Digital is a comprehensive toolkit created by librarians for librarians, in partnership with Google and Public Libraries 2020 (PL2020), an EU-based programme geared at raising awareness of the importance of public libraries as a community and learning resource.
Research conducted by the European Commission suggests that while nine out of 10 jobs in the future will require digital skills, 44 per cent of Europeans aged 16 to 74 do not have even basic digital literacy. There is increasing evidence for the existence of a “participation paradox” – that is, groups who could benefit most from technology use it the least. Disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, especially low income individuals and families, are the most affected by the digital skills gap. Libraries Lead With Digital aims to promote and develop the community aspect of public libraries by providing training to groups which may not otherwise be able easily to access computer-related education facilities.
PL2020 and Google have partnered with 10 English and Irish libraries to provide the equipment librarians need to support and train their local communities in digital skills, online safety and computer science. Workshops and training courses provided by the Libraries Lead With Digital pilot include:
- Coding classes for children (South Dublin, Warwick, Redbridge, Stockton, Fingal, West Sussex, Norfolk, Monaghan, Wexford);
- Lessons in building a CV for young people leaving the care system (West Sussex);
- Internet safety lessons for children and parents (South Dublin, Norfolk, Redbridge, Warwick, Fingal, Stockton);
- Applied digital skills and CV building techniques for jobseekers (South Dublin, Manchester, Fingal); and
- Planning and researching university applications for young people aged 15 to 18 (West Sussex).
Participating librarians have compiled and developed the Libraries Lead With Digital toolkits, which include online resources and lesson plans to facilitate wider library-based community learning. The toolkits have been tested and developed as part of the pilot scheme; and have now been made freely available online.