Rock, paper, scissors and e-books all play their part in the evolving public library
Libraries are merging with GP surgeries, housing police front desks, providing shop space for local entrepreneurs, laying on music gigs and rooms for speed dating, finds a new study
Research published by the Local Government Association (LGA) finds what were only ideas a couple of years ago are now reality with many libraries having transformed into cultural hubs and e-centres to access a range of council services, as well as remaining places to borrow and read books.
Around the country, councils are finding innovative e-ways to keep providing their services while managing spending cuts, says the report.
The research finds that e-books, wifi and self-service machines are now widespread and one library has launched an online 'bookshare' scheme, possibly the first of its kind. Many offer free internet access and computer literacy courses to help ensure people who can't afford laptops or smartphones aren't left behind in our online society.
Staffordshire county council is making e-books available to all library members. More than 1,000 titles can be borrowed, free of charge, for three weeks for use on book reading devices like smartphones, book readers or iPads. The download 'expires' after the loan period ends and they can be borrowed by only one library user at a time. It has also rolled out Wi-Fi access at all its main libraries.
Libraries in Northamptonshire are now providing Enterprise Hubs which offer business start-up advice and mentoring, job clubs, business IT advice, and CV and finance workshops. Due to the programme's success, the county council extending the concept by setting up 'hatchery' spaces in its libraries.
Councillor Flick Rea, chair of the Local Government Association's Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: "Book borrowing and reading are still the key elements of a library, but increasingly important is making the internet and digital technology accessible to all so vast swathes of the population are not left behind. In tough times people also need easy access to advice about benefits, job seeking, business, training and health, as well as support with children and elderly relatives.
"A library in the 21st century can be a whole range of things, from a small e-book borrowing point based in a shop to part of a cultural hub which supports everything from education and lifelong learning to health, volunteering, art projects, small business, job hunting and social care."
To receive a copy of the LGA's report 'Local solutions for future local library services', contact:firstname.lastname@example.org