Public libraries deliver a variety of activities and interventions designed to increase employability and improve digital skills among their wide range of users. While not all available through every Library service, these include:
– Provision of the People’s Network which enables free access to the Internet.*
– Free Wi-Fi in Libraries.
– Business and Intellectual Property Information.
– Job Clubs.
– Support in accessing Government sites.*
– Support in finding verified and verifiable information through all available resources.*
– Community Learning Spaces, offering a variety of courses aimed at increasing employability. These include Employability Skills, Digital Skills, CV writing and basic literacy and numeracy qualifications.
* Those marked with an Asterix are available through every library.
A positive example of this is the development of Business and Intellectual Property Centres in Libraries in the UK in partnership with the British Library. The 2019 report Democratising Entrepreneurship indicated that, through this programme of information provision and practical support, an equivalent of 15 businesses per day had been started since 2012, with 55% of these started by women, 31% by those with a black or Asian minority ethnic background and 17% by those declaring a disability. 90% of those businesses were still trading after three years, in comparison with the national average of 60%.
With over 3,000 outlets in England, Public Libraries provide communities with safe and neutral spaces where people feel comfortable and are able to ask for help, advice and support. However, Public Library services are funded through Local Authorities and many have felt the impact of austerity. In some cases, alternative delivery models of service have been employed as a cost saving measures.
libraries have been closed outright. In the current fiscal climate there is little sign of this trajectory slowing or reducing. Despite this, we believe Public Libraries can support both Local and National government in the delivery of community-based initiatives: they can be part of the solution and not the problem.
In order to highlight the value of these interventions to Local and National Government, there is a need for a robust and up-to-date demonstration of impact. We are therefore seeking proposals which will help evidence the breadth of services and activities delivered, their effectiveness, the demographic range of beneficiaries and the sustainability / longevity of benefits conferred.